Domestic abuse and injunctions

Research suggests that one in four women and one in six men will suffer a form of domestic abuse at some point in their lives.  Such abuse is not limited to physical violence and is defined by the Government as

‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those age 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality’.

Abuse can take a range of forms, the most common of which are perhaps:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual  
  • Financial
  • Emotional

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship or are suffering from domestic abuse we can help.  A variety of measures can be taken in order to help ensure your safety and to protect you and/or your loved ones.

Injunctions
In order to protect a victim from domestic abuse it may be necessary to issue proceedings to obtain an injunction against an abuser.  Each case is different and is dependent upon its own facts, so seeing a solicitor to discuss your options is always advisable. 

Taking that first step might be stressful, but our experience allows us to approach each case in a sensitive manner and to address each client’s particular difficulties.We can also advise a Respondent to allegations of domestic abuse where the allegations are contested. 

In cases where it is appropriate to make an application to the court, there are two types of injunction available under the Family Law Act 1996.

Non-molestation orders
This injunction can prohibit a person from molesting an applicant or a child.  “Molestation” can refer not only to violence and threats of violence, but also harassment and pestering.  Such an order could, therefore, be granted against someone who has been consistently sending abusive letters or text messages. 

A non-molestation order can also prohibit an abuser from approaching you, your property or an area around your property, or from making any contact with you in any way.  Any breach of a non-molestation order constitutes a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment in the Crown Court, and twelve months’ imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates Court.

Occupation orders
These injunctions can be granted to exclude a person from occupying a home and can apply to married or unmarried persons. Even if the property in question is held in the abuser’s sole name, it can be possible to obtain an order for that person to be excluded from the property. 

Occupation orders can require a person to leave a property or prohibit their returning to a home if they have recently left. Whether it is possible to apply for such an order and the likelihood of such an order being granted is a complicated area; we would be able to advise you as to your options and the best method of protecting yourself and your family.

Breaches of an occupation order can lead to significant fines or even imprisonment in appropriate cases.  Some clients may be in need of immediate action and, if necessary, we can assist by making an urgent application to court to obtain an injunction at very short notice. 

Other remedies
If action is required in relation to a child then an application to the court can be made under the Children Act 1989 for a Prohibited Steps order.  This will direct a parent not to do something in relation to a child and can be an effective remedy if it is felt that the actions of one parent may not be in a child’s best interests. In extreme cases these orders can even prohibit a parent from having any contact with a child.

If the parties have never been in a relationship then it may be possible to obtain an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.  If the abuser has caused harassment, alarm and distress to a person on more than one occasion the court has the power to make an injunction order to prevent any repeat of that type of behaviour.  If the injunction is breached, the abuser commits a criminal offence, potentially resulting in a fine or imprisonment.

Police forces have become more involved in domestic abuse cases in recent times and many forces now have their own Domestic Violence Unit.  If you are suffering abuse or fear for your safety, it may be appropriate for you to call the Police immediately.  The Police can institute harassment proceedings, impose bail conditions upon those charged, and issue Domestic Violence Protection Orders.  If an assault or serious threats have been made then the police should prosecute the offender.

If the situation is such that an abused woman cannot contemplate returning home for fear of further abuse, urgent consideration should also be given to finding a place to stay in a woman’s refuge or to seeking temporary local authority housing.

For further information or to arrange your free half-hour initial consultation please contact the Family team on 01249 712193 or email family@goughs.co.uk.