Domestic abuse remains one of the most prevalent crimes in England and Wales.
According to the Office of National Statistics in the year ending March 2019, 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse. The number of women and girls killed in England and Wales had also risen to its highest level in 14 years with a 10% increase having been documented. Between March 2018 and March 2019 there were 241 recorded female victims of murder, manslaughter and infanticide with 48% of those victims being killed in a domestic homicide, and 38% of those victims being killed at the hands of their partner or ex-partner.
The Government is currently seeking to progress a Domestic Abuse Bill through Parliament this year. The purpose of the Bill is to raise awareness and understanding of domestic abuse and its impact upon victims. It aims to strengthen support available for victims and to improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and in bringing perpetrators to justice.
Domestic abuse can take many forms and is not limited to physical violence.
Domestic abuse covers a range of types of abuse, including, but not limited to, physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. It is 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.
Anyone can experience domestic abuse regardless of age, sex, race, ethnic or religious group, disability or lifestyle. If your partner or a family member is being abusive towards you this is a criminal offence and you are able to report the abuse to the police and ask to press charges. You can also pursue a civil remedy through the family courts by applying for an injunction order otherwise known as a non-molestation order.
A non-molestation order can stop that person from using violence, threatening intimidating or harassing you. Any children who live with you can also be protected.
It is a criminal offence to breach a non-molestation order, and anybody ignoring an order made against them will be committing a criminal offence. Anyone who is found guilty of this offence potentially faces a prison sentence of up to 5 years and/or a large fine.
Under certain circumstances, the courts can order also that person to move out of the home that you may have shared through the making of an Occupation order. An occupation order decides who is entitled to live in the home, and can be used to exclude an abusive person.
Who may apply for a non-molestation order?
Spouses and former spouses; people who live together or have lived together in the same household - such as tenants, lodgers, boarders; same sex-couples; relatives - such as grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, stepparents and stepchildren; engaged couples; parties that are or have been in an intimate relationship, parents of the same child and parties to family proceedings. Children can also apply for this order, although if they are aged under 16 the court’s permission is needed and this will only be given if the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the application.
Who can apply for an occupation order?
This is a complicated area, and depends on what rights you have in relation to your home. Anyone who is entitled to apply for a non-molestation order and who also has a legal right to occupy the home can usually apply for an occupation order. Also, all spouses and former spouses, cohabitants and former cohabitants have the right to apply no matter what rights they have in relation to their home.
How quickly can I get an injunction order?
If you need urgent protection you can ask the court for an immediate hearing at which only you and your solicitor attend and the court can be invited to make an order based on what you say, which will be recorded in a written statement prepared by your solicitor on your behalf. This hearing can often occur on the same day that you instruct your solicitor. If this happens, there will be a further hearing soon afterwards, usually within fourteen days, at which the other party to the case can put their side of the case to the court. From first seeing a solicitor to a final order being made can take less than one month.
How long will the order last?
An injunction order is intended as a time limited form of protection, usually lasting twelve months, although orders can be made for extended periods if the court feels that on-going protection is required beyond the standard twelve months.
How can we help?
Our specialist domestic abuse team at Tozers appreciates that seeking advice when you have been subjected to domestic abuse can be a very difficult step to take. We can offer advice about a range of options available to you, whether legal protection by way of an injunction, advice about support from other agencies or just information to assist you to make decisions for yourself or others in your family.
A member of our family team can be available at short notice to discuss your difficulties and if necessary, assist you to apply to the court for an order for your protection.