How much time do I have to bring a case against the state?

How much time do I have to bring a case against the state?

You have been wronged by a state body or the police and are considering taking legal action. We understand that the thought of taking legal action against a public authority can be daunting and you may not be sure if you are ready to take this step. This article explains why it is in your best interest to seek legal advice as soon as possible after the incident.

Deadlines in your case

There are time limits that apply in cases against state bodies. If you do not take action before the deadline, you may not be able to bring certain parts of your case (‘causes of action’). This can decrease your chances of succeeding in your case overall. The below time limits may apply in your case[1]:

Cause of action Deadline
Judicial review


Promptly and within 3 months of the decision being challenged
Victims’ Right to Review 3 months from date of the decision
Prison complaint 3 months from the incident
Discrimination (Equality Act 2010) 6 months minus 1 day of act or omission
Human Rights Act 1998 1 year minus 1 day of the breach
Personal injury (including psychiatric injury) 3 years from date of injury (or in some cases, from the date of knowledge of the injury)
Assault & battery 6 years from the date of the incident*
False imprisonment (including unlawful arrests) 6 years from date of detention*
Malicious prosecution 6 years from date of the favorable outcome*
Misfeasance 6 years from date from when damage ended*
Breach of the Data Protection Act/GDPR 6 years from date from end of breach*
Negligence 6 years from date from damage*
Inquest Various deadlines may apply in a case where your loved one has died. Please read more about this here.
Police complaint There is no time limit on making a complaint, but it is best to do this as soon as possible after the incident. If more than 12 months have passed, it may not be investigated.


*Which period will apply?

If your claim involves multiple causes of action, it is important that it is issued at court in advance of the shortest limitation period that applies.  For example, if your claim involves assault, false imprisonment and personal injury, the effective limitation period is 3 years (not 6 years).

What if I am out of time?

If some or all the above deadlines have passed, and no exceptions apply, it is more difficult to take legal action. In special circumstances, it may still be possible to bring your case by agreeing an extension for this deadline with the other party or court.

The law surrounding this is complex and depends on the details in your case and type of causes of action you want to bring. We can provide expert advice on this in your specific case.

Why else is it important to bring my case quickly?

Beyond the deadlines in your case, there are other reasons to get in touch as soon as possible. In a case where a police officer does not agree with your witness account, for instance, independent evidence like video or audio footage is a valuable asset. Recorded footage can be deleted after one to three months, so it is important that we ask the relevant authorities to preserve this evidence on time. We may also need to take your and any other parties’ witness accounts of the incident. The fresher your and their recollection are, the more helpful these statements will be for your case.

You may also have sustained injuries in the incident. It is advisable to record evidence of this as soon as possible after the injury, by taking photographs of physical injuries for instances. We may also advise you to make an appointment with your GP or mental health professional (if applicable).

A lot of work needs to be done in advance of the deadlines in your case. This includes considering your funding options, gathering evidence, assessing your case and its worth, and communicating with other parties in your matter. To ensure the best possible outcome of your case, we advise that you get in touch with us as soon as possible after the incident occurred.

Our expert team of police action, civil liberties and human rights solicitors are experienced in bringing cases against state bodies. Please contact us on 020 7632 4300 or here for a free, no-obligation, initial discussion of whether we may be able to help you bring a case.

[1] Please note this is not an exhaustive list


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