Police forces and charities across the U.K have warned of a potential spike in domestic violence cases during lockdown. With families spending an increased amount of time in a confined area, there is a higher violence. There are many people, whether they realise it or not, who are in abusive relationships.
The current definition of domestic violence is:
“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:
Controlling & Coercive behaviour
Controlling behaviour includes a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate. This can include 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.
Support available for victims of domestic violence
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 essential that victims can find a safe place to stay 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.
Domestic violence and Lockdown
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”.
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.
Any victim that leaves their house to avoid injury, illness or 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 who are seeking support, further information can be found on the government website.
Remedies for domestic abuse
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).
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 family home or its surrounding area. 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.
A Non-Molestation Order prevents an individual from using or threatening violence, intimidating, harassing or pestering a victim or encouraging a third party to intimidate or harass. This can also be extended to the victim’s children.
If a victim is in immediate danger, an ex parte application for an injunction can be made to the Court on the same day, meaning that the Court hears the application without the abuser being present. However, before the Court grants an Order, they will need to be satisfied that the victim is in immediate 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.
Injunctions are usually granted for periods of six or twelve months. They can then be renewed or extended beyond this period. There is no limit to the number of times a Non-Molestation Order can be extended, but an Occupation Order, can only be extended beyond the initial twelve month period if the victim has a legal right to stay in the home.
If you have any legal questions on domestic abuse or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 042 0700.