April 20, 2020

Police forces and charities across the UK have warned of a potential rise in domestic violence cases during lockdown as families are being asked to stay at home, with many struggling on a reduced household income as a result of the current restrictions.

With families being stuck at home, there is a much higher risk of a situation becoming violent. Many people, whether they realise it or not, are in abusive relationships and abusers will typically manipulate the situation to take advantage of their perceived position of power.

Definition of domestic violence

“Any incident or pattern of incidents 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, regardless of gender or sexuality”.

This can encompass the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are a range of support options available, even during the constraints of lockdown. First and foremost, it is imperative that victims are able to find safety and if they are in any immediate danger, then they should call 999 and speak to the police. If a victim is not in any immediate danger, they should consider making a contingency plan for leaving the family home by making sure people are informed or ready to take action if the need becomes vital.

Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, the current law during lockdown makes it an offence for a person to leave their family home without any “reasonable excuse” and many victims of domestic violence may be worried that they cannot leave the family home whilst these restrictions are in place. However, Regulation 6 considers a “reasonable excuse” to include leaving the house to access critical public services, to include social services and services provided to those at risk, together with leaving the house to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm. Accordingly, any victim leaving the house to avoid injury, illness or a risk of harm caused by domestic violence or to access support services, will be considered to have a “reasonable excuse” for doing so.

There are a range of resources for those seeking support and further information can be found here.

There are also many charities to support victims of domestic violence to include Shelter, Refuge and Women’s Aid who have published safety tips and advice, with a particular focus on online and telephone support. It also includes information on the “Silent Solution” which is a system for calling 999 when you are unable to speak. 

For those who wish to take action and remain living at the family home with the abuser removed, there are measures in place to stop domestic violence and they are contained under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 (as amended by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004).

Occupation Orders and Non-Molestation Orders

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can apply for an injunction to include an Occupation Order or a Non-Molestation Order.

An Occupation Order regulates who is to live at the family home and can prevent an abuser from entering the area surrounding the family home. This type of Order is usually applicable when a victim does not feel safe to continue to live with their partner or when they have fled the family home, but want to return and exclude their abuser from returning to the home.

A Non-Molestation Order prevents a victim’s partner or ex-partner from using or threatening violence, intimidating, harassing or pestering a victim and can be extended to the victim’s children.

To apply for one of the above Orders, there must be an association between the parties in one of the following ways:-

  • Marriage or Civil Partnership,
  • Cohabitants or former cohabitants;
  • Living together or have previously lived in the same household;
  • An intimate personal relationship with each other which is or was of a significant duration;
  • Relatives;
  • Where parties have agreed to marry, or the parties have previously agreed to marry – this still applies even if the agreement has now ended;
  • There are children of the parties – this includes both those who are parents of the same child or those who have parental responsibility for the same child.
  • The parties are involved in the same family proceedings such as divorce or children matters.

For the purposes of the Family Law Act 1996, if a victim does not fall into one of the above categories, but is continually being harassed, threatened or stalked after a relationship has ended, a civil injunction can be applied for under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

If a victim is in immediate danger, an ex parte application for an injunction can be made to the Court on the same day; this means the Court hears the application without the abuser being present. Before the Court grants an Order, they will need to be satisfied that the victim is at risk of significant harm or will be prevented from making any such application to the Court, at a later date. If the victim is granted an ex parte order, a full Hearing will take place at a later date, once the abuser has been served with a copy of the order.

An injunction is usually granted for a six, or sometimes a twelve month period, however, it can then be renewed or granted upon a further application being made. There is no limit to the number of times a Non-Molestation Order can be extended, but with an Occupation Order, they can only be extended beyond the initial twelve month period if the victim has a legal right to stay in the home, for example, they are the homeowner, co-homeowner, tenant or joint tenant or because they have been married to the homeowner or tenant.

If you have any questions at all on how this may affect you, please do not hesitate to contact us in confidence at enquiries@terry-jones.co.uk or call 01743 218 450.

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