In the Media

False allegations of rape and the law | @guardianletters

PUBLISHED February 17, 2014

I strongly disagree with the suggestion that William Roache and Dave Lee Travis have been properly brought to trial (Comment, 14 February). Keir Starmer is betraying whatever legal education he received by his partisan views. Limitation periods under the law of England and Wales are laid out by the Limitation Act 1980, and are the periods of time during which an individual can bring a private (civil) claim, or else lose the right to bring it. The reasoning behind this, which has its origins in Roman law, is that firstly someone with a good cause of action should pursue it with reasonable diligence; secondly that a defendant might have lost evidence to disprove a stale claim; and thirdly that long-dormant claims have more "cruelty than justice" in them (Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th edition). So English law says that it is contrary to "public policy" for people to be perpetually exposed to litigation for allegedly wrongful acts. As time passes, witnesses' memories may fade, or become distorted, and documentary evidence available to do justice to the case is less likely to be available, or in certain cases even exist. It is recognised this may prevent justice being done, and for a great many years it has been accepted that it is in the public interest that claims become barred by statute after a certain period of time has elapsed – usually six years.

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