Thursday, March 26, 2020

UK bill on limitation of actions

The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill that was recently introduced in Parliament can be found here. It would limit the period in which certain offenses may be prosecuted. Of particular interest are s. 2, which erects a presumption against prosecution for certain offenses after five years, and s. 3, which provides guidance for when offenses more than five years old should be prosecuted:

2 Presumption against prosecution 

The principle referred to in section 1(1) is that it is to be exceptional for a relevant prosecutor making a decision to which that section applies to determine that proceedings should be brought against the person for the offence or, as the case may be, that the proceedings against the person for the offence should be continued.

3 Matters to be given particular weight 

(1) In making a decision to which section 1 applies, a relevant prosecutor must give particular weight to the matters set out in subsection (2) (so far as they tend to reduce the person’s culpability or otherwise tend against prosecution).

(2) Those matters are—

(a) the adverse effect (or likely adverse effect) on the person of the conditions the person was exposed to during deployment on the operations mentioned in section 1(3)(b), including their experiences and responsibilities (for example, being exposed to unexpected or continuous threats, being in command of others who were so exposed, or being deployed alongside others who were killed or severely wounded in action);

(b) in a case where there has been a relevant previous investigation and no compelling new evidence has become available, the public interest in finality (as regards how the person is to be dealt with) being achieved without undue delay.

(3) In considering the matter in subsection (2)(a), the prosecutor must have regard to the exceptional demands and stresses to which members of Her Majesty’s forces are likely to be subject while deployed on overseas operations, regardless of their length of service, rank or personal resilience.

(4) In subsection (2)(a) “adverse effect”, in relation to a person, means—

(a) an adverse effect on their capacity to make sound judgements or exercise self control, or

(b) any other adverse effect on their mental health, and in this subsection “effect” means an effect at the time of the alleged conduct. 

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