Please note: although we are happy to help victims of domestic violence – we are unable to do so using Legal Aid. For that you will need a law firm with a Legal Aid Contract.
Domestic violence is something that unfortunately affects a lot of people. Most of the victims are women, but it can also affect men and, in relationship where one partner is abusing the other, it can also have a potentially very serious impact on children.
Domestic violence always needs to be taken very seriously.
If you are the victim of domestic abuse, whether it is emotional or physical, don’t remain a victim – make sure you tackle the problem by reporting it to the police as they are often in the best position to take swift action against the person abusing you.
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Here at Bonallack & Bishop, our Divorce and Family Law team is the largest in Salisbury, Andover, Amesbury and Fordingbridge. We provide specialist family law advice to clients throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset and further afield. And when it comes to family law, that first phone call, and your first 1/2 hour appointment, are both FREE, with no strings attached.
The scale of the domestic violence problem
As at July 2023, the most recent reliable statistics on the massive scale of domestic abuse is the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the year ending March 2022. That latest Government’s Crime Survey confirmed that the police had recorded 758,941 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2020. But it’s well established that many domestic abuse incidents simply go unreported. Estimates for that year suggest that, remarkably, around 2.4 million adults between the ages of 16 and 74 years were victims of domestic abuse (1.7 million women and 699,000 men). And approximately 1 in 5 of those aged over 16 years (that’s 10.4 million) had experienced domestic abuse as adults.
Advice for Victims of Violence and Harassment – your options
Press Criminal Charges
If you have been harassed, attacked or assaulted you should contact the police immediately. The police will be able to arrest and charge the aggressor, who will subsequently be required to appear in Court. They may also have bail conditions imposed upon them – which means that their freedom is dependent upon leaving you alone.
Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the police have extensive powers to help should you feel you are being stalked or harassed.
If you have been forced to leave your home to the violence you face there are people there to support you. Woman’s Aid offers a lot of help to women in such situations and will be able to help find you temporary accommodation. If you leave with children, you will be seen as a priority.
There is an excellent free 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline run by a partnership of Women’s Aid and the Refuge network answered by fully trained female support workers and volunteers Just call them on Freephone 0808 2000 247.
If you are being harassed over the phone, British Telecom offers services to help. Firstly, they provide a tracer service in such exceptional circumstances or could simply change you phone number.
Legal action – How our solicitors can help you
Having the help of our family law team on your side following violence or harassment can be invaluable.
Our solicitors can support you in a number of ways. For example, we can warn the aggressor in writing that if their behaviour does not stop, the Court will be asked to intervene.
Should abuse continue after this point, we can apply to the Court for an Order.
Own your property together? Click here to read more about joint property ownership disputes.
Domestic violence – available Court Orders
There are two types of injunction which our solicitors can apply for on your behalf to protect you from domestic abuse:
- An occupation order. This allows you to occupy the family home and usually excludes someone else from the property
- A non-molestation order. This forbids somebody else from being violent in anyway, from threatening violence or harassing you
The scope of a court order
Court Orders against domestic violence or harassment commonly require the violent person to:
• Stop using or threatening to use violence against you or a child
• Stop interfering, pestering or harassing you or a child
• Leave a property
• Stay away from a property
• Stay out of a specified area
• Allow you onto a property without attempting to eject them
Applying for a court order – the process
If you need to get an Order, then you can in theory make the application to court yourself.
However this is most unusual.
It’s important you follow the right procedure and provide the right evidence in the right format to get the order you need. In particular the Court will need to see a comprehensive Sworn Statement from you – setting out your version of events and why you feel you need an Order.
What’s more, if you been this victim of domestic violence you probably won’t welcome having to present your case yourself to a judge – because any court, however hard it tries to be relaxed, can be a very intimidating place.
What’s more, although you may get the initial order without the presence of the abuser, that order will properly only be attempted one. The court will normally give the abuser the chance to present their own case when considering a longer term order – and having to cross-examine the abuser or argue against them in court is likely to be the last thing you feel capable of doing after fleeing domestic violence.
Our 4 family lawyers are highly specialist – family law and divorce is all they do. And they have plenty of experience in understanding and representing victims of domestic violence like you.
Making an order – what factors will the Court consider?
In considering whether to make a non-molestation or occupation order, the court will look at numerous factors, including:
• Your relationship with the violent person e.g. cohabitee (sometimes referred to as a “common law spouse”, although that term has no legal meaning), spouse, family member
• The history and nature of the relationship with the violent person
• What your rights are to the property specified in the Order
Domestic violence and children – available Court orders
There are also ways in which a solicitor may be able to help you if you are experiencing domestic abuse. For instance, they might be able to help you apply for court orders under the 1989 Children Act in order to protect your children from harm.
This could take the form of
- child arrangements orders – these set out where your child should live and the level and type of contact permitted with the other parent
- specific issue orders – these deal with a a specific question about how your child is raised. They commonly cover such areas as education and religious upbringing
- prohibited steps orders – these are designed to stop the other parent from making a decision or taking action in relation to your child’s upbringing
Click here to read more about children law.
Orders protecting other family members
It is very likely that if you are a spouse or cohabitee and have been the subject of violence, you will successfully obtain an order for both your personal protection and remaining in the home.
However, it is also possible for relatives and cohabitants to receive the protection of court orders as well.
What is an occupation order?
Simply a court order which dates who is allowed to live in the family home or enter any surrounding area.
Can I apply for an this occupation order
You are able to make application for this kind of order if you have been the victim of domestic violence and you meet the following conditions
- you own or rent the home and it is, was, or was intended to be shared with a husband or wife, civil partner, cohabitant, family member, person you’re engaged to or parent of your child
- you do not own or rent the home but you’re married or in a civil partnership with the owner and you’re living in the home (known as ‘matrimonial home rights’)
- your former husband, wife or civil partner is the owner or tenant, and the home is, was, or was intended to be your shared matrimonial home
- the person you lived with is the owner or tenant, and the home is, was, or was intended to be your shared home
How does a Non-Molestation or Occupation Order Work?
These Orders are simple document but carry formal legal weight. To be legally binding, the Order must be “served” on the intended recipient so that they are aware of the terms and can respond accordingly.
Should any terms be ignored having been served the Order, that person will have breached the Order which is likely to lead to a punishment from the Court (depending on the nature of the breach).
If the Order is breached, you can make it enforceable by applying to the Court for “committal proceedings”. Certain types of Court Order if breached can result in hefty financial penalties or even imprisonment.
Domestic Violence: Emergency Court Orders
If you are being subjected to domestic violence or harassment, you may not feel that you have time to pursue the normal course of action for seeking a Court Order.
In such emergencies, the Court might be able to holding a hearing much sooner than usual and a good family lawsolicitor may be able to find a Judge immediately. It’s not unusual for these initial emergency hearings to be held without notification to the alleged abuser.
The Judge will, however, need to decide whether or not your word serves as sufficient proof for the need of an emergency Order.
Such an Order will generally be short term, and you may need to apply for another longer lasting Order.
The Court’s Power of Arrest
If the Court adds the power of arrest to an Order, the Police will be able to arrest the Order’s subject should they breach it. If the order is being breached or has just been breached, you should contact the police straight away so that they can arrest the person. It is crucial that the police are aware of the power to arrest in that case so that they are aware of their power to arrest. Your family solicitor will be able to able to send then a copy.
If arrested, the Order’s subject will probably be charged with a civil rather than a criminal offence and will therefore appear in the civil Court. The accused should appear in Court the next day when the Judge will determine whether or not the Order has been breached and what the appropriate penalty is.
This penalty may require the accused to remain in custody but this it at the Judge’s discretion.
Paying for your legal representation
Subject to your financial eligibility, the Legal Aid Agency may help you with your solicitor’s fees.
Although we are happy to help victims of domestic violence, we do not offer legal aid.