Statute of Limitations; should crime have an expiry date?

Statute the what?

Statute of Limitations; a watch showing time passing

Time’s running out

A statute of limitations is a law which stops people from being charged with a crime committed more than a set number of years in the past.

It’s basically an expiry date for when you can be charged with a crime. If you committed a crime, but the statute of limitations has passed; you cannot be charged.





Why are we talking about this?

In the USA the length of the Statute of Limitations for sex crimes, including rape, differs state-by-state.

Some states have a limitation of three years, others go up to thirty and some have no time limits at all.

Actor-Comedian Bill Cosby is currently accused of a long list of sexual assaults. The majority of the alleged crimes took place way back in the 1970s and 1980s; because of the statute of limitations he won’t be charged. However one of the accusations claims Cosby drugged and abused a woman in 2008, because this is within the statute of limitations Bill is in a lot of trouble.

In the UK there is no time limit, which is why Labour peer Lord Janner is facing a trial for sex crimes dating back to the 1960s.


Yes; we should have a Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations - Dory from "Finding Nemo" loses memory

Over time memories become less reliable

The main argument for the statute is that over time evidence will become less reliable. Physical evidence may deteriorate or get lost. Witnesses’ memories of events will become blurred over time.

Various psychological studies on memory support this. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus suggested that information provided after the event can significantly alter existing memories. In a study she showed participants a video of a robbery, and then a news report of the same event. Though the news report contained errors, many participants included these in their own version of what happened. All sounds a bit like Inception.

The physical signs of abuse will also fade over time; making it very difficult and time-consuming to put a case together. Another argument for the statute of limitations is that people deserve the right to a swift trial. They also shouldn’t have to fear prosecution for a minor crime like shoplifting if it occurred many years in the past.


No; we should not have a Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations - Martin Freeman in "Sherlock" Dr Watson

Just No.

Research has shown that victims of sexual abuse take longer to come forward. A report on child sexual abuse in Australia found that it took on average 22 years to come forward.

Some states in America have statutes of limitation as short as three years for sexual abuse. It’s easy to see how many victims won’t get justice as they come forward too late.

In the case of Bill Cosby; even if he is found guilty of sexual assault in the 2008 case, his punishment may be less severe compared to the sentence he might have faced if found guilty of all the other alleged crimes.



Statutes Explained; count off the days ‘til you can safely admit to past crimes

Should the USA get rid of the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse? Or should countries like the UK create a similar rule?


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The Death Penalty Explained: Which countries allow it?

The death penalty still very much exists. Events in Alabama, US and Bali, Indonesia have us asking where, how and why it can still effect us all. We bring you, Death Penalty: Decoded.

What we know for certain: 

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment was abolished in the UK in 1965. However, it still exists in several countries, including parts of the US.

No matter who you are or where you come from, if you get caught committing a crime worthy of capital punishment in a country that still abides by such penalties, you are in serious trouble.

So where exactly does the death penalty still exist?

AfghanistanBahamasBangladeshBelarusBotswanaChinaCubaEgyptGuatemalaIndia, IndonesiaIranIraqJapanJordanNorth KoreaSouth KoreaLebanonMalaysiaPakistanRussiaSaudi ArabiaSingaporeSomaliaSri LankaSyriaTaiwanTajikistanThailandTongaUnited Arab EmiratesUnited States (32 states as well as in US gov’t and military), VietnamYemen.

The death penalty is used under different means depending on the circumstances of the crime and the country ruling. Methods of enacting the death penalty vary according to where it is taking place.

Modern methods for enacting the death penalty:

Lethal injection
Firing Squad
Single person shooting
Gas Chamber
Electric chair

Why are you bringing this up now?

Recent news has highlighted the importance of having the right people on your side.


Ray Hinton

Alabama, U.S: Anthony Ray Hinton, 58, has just walked free from death row (03.04.15) after 30 years behind bars. Hinton was convicted for murder but during his second trial, proper ballistic testing was carried out and proved that the bullets found at the crime scene could not have come from a weapon that Hinton owned.

What went wrong? The lawyer that Hinton had initially hired did not have sufficient qualifications or witnesses to challenge the ballistic tests first time round. Some have said that this conviction might have been avoided all together if Hinton could have afforded better legal representation. Others say it’s a good thing he was awarded with another trial.

What happens if you can’t afford any legal representation?

1. You could try your luck with a lawyer or attorney who legally must devote some time to pro-bono cases.

2. Firms or organisations who have been created solely to help those who can’t afford legal fees e.g. Legal Aid.

3. You’ll be appointed one by the government or state

This is most certainly not how it works globally, in developed countries like the US and UK, there are at least a few options, but because other countries are bound by different legal systems (common law, civil law, religious law, hybrid), they have their own methods for distributing representation on both civil and criminal cases.

In more recent news:

Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan

Andrew Chan with Myuran Sukumaran killed by firing squad

Indonesia, Bali: Two Australian drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin back into Australia from Bali in 2005 and were sentenced to death in 2006. Chan and Sukumaran sat on death row trying to exhaust every possible legal avenue before the execution. They suffered several blows in their appeals. On 29th April 2015, both Chan and Sukumaran were killed by a firing squad in Indonesia. They were among eight people who died, including four Nigerians and men from Brazil and Indonesia, despite international outrage and diplomatic interventions. A mother from the Philippines was granted a last-minute reprieve.

Indonesian authorities recognised that they have a right to defend their lives but when the President, Mr Widodo has categorically prioritised executing capital punishment for crimes such as these. It is difficult to wangle your way out of it. How can Australian law not override Indonesian law when the criminals are Australian? Even with a team of lawyers, human rights organisations and Australian political figureheads publicly calling for a ‘stay of execution’ it essentially comes down to my turf my rules.

Closer to home:


Lindsay Sandiford in Indonesia

Lindsay Sandiford has been on death row in the same Balinese prison since 2012 for crimes relating to drug trafficking. Sandiford knew Chan and Sukumaran well and spoke very highly of them.

Sandiford fears that she will be subjected to the same fate later this year.

How it works:

A firing squad, made up of 12 officers, they are called Brimob in Indonesia, will be five to 10 metres away and will shoot their M16s when given the order. Only some of the officers will have live rounds so they never know who fires the fatal shot. Officers have to be selected and their selection is based on their mental and physical health.

Taking no more than five minutes, the executioners follow a strict and strategic plan, once the firing is complete, bodies are then transported to bathing facilities and placed in coffins and treated according to their respective religious tradition.

After performing the execution, officers undergo three days of classes that include spiritual guidance and psychological assistance. Officers find the shooting the easiest part of it, dealing with the psychological effects is harder.

How do you guys feel about the death penalty, should it remain legal in certain countries, has it deterred people from committing crime? How do you think the executioners really feel about the judicial system as a whole?

Let us know below.