Domestic violence is a crime that is estimated to affect tens of thousands of people each year. Many victims, for whatever reason, choose not to report it, so the actual number may be significantly higher. It can be committed by both men and women and they do not necessarily need to live in the same property for it to occur. Domestic abuse may also take the form of financial, verbal or mental abuse and is not just limited to physical violence. Here, we will look at the legal options available if you are affected.
Domestic Abuse is a Crime
Always remember that domestic violence is a crime and you can receive protection under criminal and civil law. If you are on a low income and are receiving benefits, you can apply for public funding to cover some of the legal costs if you need to go through a solicitor.
Domestic Abuse and Criminal Law
Perpetrators of domestic abuse may be charged with several crimes if arrested. These include murder, rape, assault, grievously bodily harm, harassment, criminal damage, actual bodily harm et al.
The Crown Prosecution Service will always prosecute the offender on the victim’s behalf if the case reaches the Criminal Court. You may be called as a witness to testify against the defendant and will not need a solicitor in this instance (the offender will have one to help defend him or her in court). Witnesses may be scared against speaking against their relative or ex-partner and the experience might make you feel vulnerable and isolated. Always remember that the law is there to help you.
If the police think you are at high risk of domestic abuse (particularly if the offender has a history of violent behaviour), you might be referred to an Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) service who will guide you through the legal process.
Domestic Abuse and Civil Law
If you are suffering from domestic abuse and do not wish to go through the police for whatever reason, you can seek protection by applying for an injunction (also known as a protection order). Applications are heard at the Magistrates’ Family Proceedings Court and you will need to make a sworn statement describing the behaviour of your ex-partner/relative. If you are in significant danger, you can get applications done on the same day.
Who Can Apply?
To apply for an injunction, you and your partner/relative must be related to one another in some way. These include marriage, being in a civil partnership, are co-habiting, have children together and are engaged.
Types of Injunction
The two main types under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 are a non-molestation order and an occupation order:
• A non-molestation order is intended to prevent the offender from intimidating you and your children. The Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004 has made breaching this injunction a criminal offence, giving you extra protection.
• An occupation order restricts who can and cannot live or enter your home. The offender may not be allowed to return to the property if you do not feel safe with him/her living there.
Domestic abuse is a terrifying experience but you are protected under criminal and civil law, enabling you to live your life in safety and harmony. Always consult a legal professional and services like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau if you are unsure of any aspect.
Written by James Sheehan, a passionate blogger with past legal experience