Covid-19 Restrictions v Victims of Domestic Abuse
In light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, Lewis Chatten of our Family Department considers the law that protects victims of domestic abuse specifically Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders.
In light of the current coronavirus pandemic and in light of the government’s advice to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, there is a concern that incidents of domestic abuse will drastically increase. There are ways to protect yourselves and your children from harm during these uncertain times.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic violence and domestic abuse can be defined as “any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members.”
When we hear the phrase “domestic abuse” the common thought is to turn to physical violence that may occur within the family however domestic abuse can be much more than physical violence and can include psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and emotional abuse.
How to protect yourself in an emergency situation
In an emergency situation, the first point of call should be to inform the police so that you can protect yourself and/or your children from immediate harm. This may lead to criminal proceedings should the Crown Prosecution Service decide to formally charge the perpetrator of abuse.
If it is safe to do so and if there is a safe place for you to go, you should make arrangements to travel to alternative accommodation. It is the government’s advice to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary. You will not experience any criticism from any professional or authority for taking proactive steps to safeguard yourself from a perpetrator of violence and if you do then a formal complaint should be made.
You should ask family members whether you can stay with them for a short amount of time whilst you put protective measures into place and if that is not possible speak directly to a domestic abuse service (if possible) who may be able to point you in the direction of a suitable refuge.
Once in a safe place, an individual may consider seeking a protective injunction through the family court.
A Non-Molestation Order is a protective injunction specific to family members and other intimate relationships including current partners and ex-partners.
A Non-Molestation Order is aimed to specifically stop perpetrators of domestic abuse from taking further action. The order can include specific directions that stop the perpetrator from using or threatening violence, harassing, pestering and contacting an individual directly or through a third party. A Non-Molestation Order can also be used to stop a perpetrator from attending within a certain distance of an individual’s home (if they are living separately).
Once a Non-Molestation Order has been granted by the Court it is usual for the order to remain in place for a year however the length of the order can be varied by making a further application. If a perpetrator breaks the order in any way, they will have committed an automatic arrestable offence and the victim should contact the police immediately so that a criminal investigation can take place in respect of the breach.
An Occupation Order is another type of injunction that can protect those who have experienced domestic abuse. A common requirement of this order is to direct the perpetrator to leave the family home. Occupation Orders are complex and different rules will apply depending on whether the victim is entitled to occupy the property or not and whether children are involved.
Legal Aid is available for applications for Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders subject to a means and merits test.
We can help
Should you or someone you know be in a situation where they require formal protection from a perpetrator of domestic abuse or should you wish to formally warn a perpetrator of domestic abuse about their actions, then please do not hesitate to contact one of our family team by calling the office on 0121 704 3311 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event of an emergency you should contact the police on 999.