Domestic abuse is a term used to describe one or more incidents where one person exhibits threatening, controlling, degrading or violent behaviour on another. Such a dry legal definition however hides the terrifying reality and prevalence of this abuse and does not convey the harm, both physically and psychologically, that can result to victims.
For most of us our home is our castle. A place where we can relax and enjoy our family life and cherish precious time with our loved ones. But for those who have the misfortune of living with a domestic abuser this is far from the reality. Treading on egg shells to avoid saying something that may provoke irrational outbursts and having to obey someone without question may lead to a life of misery and subjugation.
If you or someone you know is suffering domestic abuse, knowing who to turn to and which laws are in place to help you can be difficult. There are various legal steps you can take, some which use the criminal law and others which involve issuing civil proceedings, but there are pros and cons to each of them, and they overlap in many ways.
This situation can be confusing and lead to victims not being certain of what to do next. In some circumstances victims may be deterred from taking a stand because of the complexity in deciding what would be the most effective course of action to take to stop the abuse.
What to do if someone is being abused
If someone is in immediate danger, you should always call 999. Domestic violence is a criminal offence and the police can take immediate action to ensure the perpetrator is removed from your home and not allowed to return.
Sometimes the police are not able to assist; in those circumstances you may need to look to the civil law to provide protection for you and your family.
The civil remedies available are known as injunctions and which are usually put in place following a domestic incident. They effectively compel the perpetrator not to act in a certain way or be in a certain place. For example, the Court can order them to stay away from your home and can tell them that they are not allowed to contact you (and potentially your children) in any way.
The civil law gives the court considerable flexibility on the type of restrictions they can impose on perpetrators of abuse, and these orders are supported by the threat of criminal prosecution in the event that they are breached.
The two most commonly used orders in cases of domestic violence are non-molestation orders and occupation orders.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse and the perpetrator is one of the following, you can apply for a non-molestation order:
- Someone you are having or have had a relationship with;
- A member of your family; or
- Someone you are living with or have lived with in the past.
These orders are put in place to stop a person from being violent, threatening, harassing (even by way of messages) or intimidating another party and their children. Anon-molestation order (NMO)can be tailored to the specific circumstances surrounding the case and the applicant’s individual situation.
An NMO may include the perpetrator being forbidden to communicate with the victim or instructing others to do so on their behalf. It may also include a clause that prevents the perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of the victim’s home.
These orders are usually granted to last between six and 12 months, although those granted on an emergency basis where the other party did not have notice of the application will have a hearing 14 days later to allow the perpetrator to tell the Court whether or not they accept the order.
Breaching an NMO order is a criminal offence and will result in the abuser being arrested. Not only this, but a breach of the order would enable the victim to enforce the order in the civil proceedings which could mean the offender could face further legal sanctions, such as being fined or imprisoned.
An occupation order specifies who is allowed to live in the family home and can be used to force an abuser to move out of as well as compel them to keep a certain distance away from the home.
While the order is in place measures can be taken to ensure the safety of the victim, and during this period the person who has been forced to leave can still be required to pay the bills in the same way they did prior to the order being issued.
These orders are granted sparingly as the courts consider what is essentially a compelled eviction to be a very drastic step, and it is a power they will only use when it is absolutely necessary to do so. These orders are usually granted for a period no longer than six, but in some cases can be for an indefinite period.
There can be criminal consequences to breaching these orders and can result in those who breach them facing arrest by the police as well.
We Can Help
These two orders are designed to protect the health and homes of those who currently suffer the misery of domestic abuse. Both orders can be issued at the same time, and if your circumstances are serious enough then it is possible for the Court to hear your case and issue the orders within 24 hours.
Vymans Solicitors have a team specialising in family law and are here to advise you if you are a victim of domestic abuse. Talk to us about your current circumstances and we can guide you through the options that are available and your next steps.
Please call us on 020 8429 1010 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.