With lockdown causing most of us to spend more time at home than usual, there has been a rise in reported cases of domestic abuse. But what can someone do if they find themselves in need of legal help? And how can a solicitor support them? We discussed this and more during #SolicitorChat.
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How can a solicitor help victims of domestic abuse
during the Coronavirus pandemic?
The family courts are still functioning and urgent hearings are taking place. A solicitor can help you apply for remedies such as an “injunction” to protect you. This can be done on an urgent basis and instructions can be taken remotely. An application will be filed at Court and a Judge will review these at a hearing (most likely via telephone or video link) prior to making an order. If it is necessary to attend Court in person safety measures have been put in place by the courts.
Of course, if you are in any immediate danger you
should call the police and remember that leaving the house to escape the risk
of harm is still permitted under the COVID regulations and provisions have been
made for you to be able to relocate for safety.
Alternatively if you are not in immediate danger, a
solicitor can write a letter warning that if behaviour does not stop an
application will be made to court.
What is an injunction and how can it help to protect
someone suffering from domestic abuse?
There are two types of injunctions non-molestation orders and occupation orders. The aim of the injunctions is to prevent future abuse and they can include provisions to prevent a perpetrator from contacting the victim, coming near their home or work or encouraging anyone else to contact and/or abuse the victim on their behalf. Both are obtained through emergency applications to the Court and if breached the police can arrest the perpetrator.
What are occupation orders and non-molestation orders and how can they help to protect someone suffering from domestic abuse?
Both are types of injunction. An occupation order can
remove someone from the home (if they are a danger to the victim) and a power
of arrest can be attached to the order. The occupation order will also prevent
the perpetrator from returning and likely prevent any contact between the
parties. A power of arrest can be attached to this order.
A non-molestation order is to protect the victim and can include provisions not to return to a home, not to contact the victim, not to encourage anyone else to contact on their behalf and not to intimidate, harass or pester the victim (or any other controlling or coercive behaviour). This order automatically has a power of arrest attached. If breached the police can immediately intervene.
What happens if someone breaks the rules of an
injunction or order?
A non-molestation order automatically has a power of
arrest attached to it. We would normally seek a power of arrest to be attached
to an occupation order. If the order is breached then the police can be
contacted immediately to arrest the perpetrator for breach of the Order.
What is the application process for an injunction or
order and how can a solicitor help?
An application will be drafted together with a
supporting statement setting out the facts for the Court. It is unlikely that
the perpetrator will know about the first hearing which is usually made as an
emergency application. The Court will then list a further hearing which the
perpetrator will have notice but will ensure that the victim is protected and
kept away from them. If the application is defended the Court may order further
evidence and list a contested hearing. A solicitor can discuss this process
What Legal Aid is available for domestic abuse victims?
There may be legal aid available, however, your
financial means (whether you can afford to pay) will be assessed. It is best to
speak to a solicitor to assess whether you will be eligible.
The contents of this article are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this article. © Mundays LLP