Can Time Run Out For Justice?



How long can justice wait? Former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC explores the relationship between justice and the passing of time.

To some extent, justice always comes after the event. Some crimes have statutes of limitations - a time limit that expires. Other serious crimes - such as murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity - do not.

The more serious the scale of criminality, the less time limitations become a factor, with the most serious categories of crime eschewing an expiry date for justice altogether. But the passage of time doesn't necessarily heal wounds - it can exacerbate them. Is there a point where a crime is so far in the past that a line must be drawn - victims must let go (not least for the sake of fair trial) and society move on? Or are some wrongs so serious that there should be no time limit to justice at all? In which case, is there a danger that justice becomes fixated on the past - a force only for resentment and retribution?

Keir Starmer draws together legal, moral and philosophical discussion with a cast of contributors including the philosopher Michael Sandel and Eli Rosenbaum, described by one historian as 'the world's most successful Nazi hunter'.

Produced by Simon Hollis

A Brook Lapping production for BBC Radio 4.