Lawyers call for end to murder-charge time limit

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The Independent Online
THE RULE prohibiting an attacker being charged with murder if the victim dies more than a year and a day after the assault, should be abolished, according to an official report published today, writes Chris Blackhurst.

A consultation paper from the Law Commission advocates scrapping the 400-year-old rule entirely with no time limit for murder or manslaughter charges.

The move has been prompted by a series of recent cases where victims have been kept alive on life support machines with the result that their assailants have been prosecuted for less serious offences and escaped with lighter sentences.

One of the best known cases involved Michael Gibson, a teenager who was badly beaten up in the street in Darlington in an unprovoked attack in April 1992. Mr Gibson never recovered consciousness but did not die until August 1993 - 16 months later - and his attacker received a two year prison sentence for causing grievous bodily harm.

Stephen Silber QC, a member of the Law Commission said yesterday: 'An armed robber can be prosecuted many years afterwards so why not a murderer?'