Posted by Rebecca Stevens, Partner
Domestic abuse – time to make it a criminal offence?
This August, the Home Secretary, Theresa May began consultations as to whether to introduce a new criminal offence of Domestic Abuse. Currently the definition of domestic abuse has been ambiguous, leaving the police unsure if they have the power to intervene in reported incidents meaning many suffering abuse don’t get the help they need.
Currently domestic abuse is defined by the Home office as:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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 definition covers a wide range of behaviour, which is not limited to physical violence. Examples of other behaviour within the definition include isolating someone from their family and friends and financial abuse.
What help can victims of domestic violence currently get?
Victims of domestic violence can get some protection for themselves and their children through the Family Courts in the form of various court orders:
• Non-Molestation Order – this order prevents the respondent (the person carrying out the abuse) from harassing, intimidating or being violent towards the applicant (the person suffering the abuse). This order can also cover the applicant’s children and prevent the respondent from coming within a certain distance of the applicant’s home.
• Occupation Order –this order can regulate who occupies the family home. It may be used to allow the applicant to return to the family home if they’ve had to leave due to domestic abuse or can prevent the respondent from having access to the home. However, because an Occupation Order interferes with a person’s right to occupy their home they are only made in the most serious of cases.
• Prohibited Steps Order – if the applicant has concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of their children they can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. This prohibits the respondent from removing the children from the applicant’s care or the care of anyone the applicant entrusts the children to, for example schools and nurseries.
• Forced Marriage Protection Order – this order prohibits the respondents from forcing or encouraging others to force the applicant to marry or undertake preparatory steps for a forced marriage.
Our Family team have a great deal of experience in providing advice and assistance to those suffering from domestic abuse. You can contact our team on:
Bath – Katherine Moody- 01225 730 100
Oxford – Anne Davies- 01865 792 300
Swindon – Amy Light – 01793 847 777
Legal Aid funding is still available in certain circumstances, subject to a means and merits test. For those not entitled to Legal Aid, we can offer a range of funding options. If you would like to talk to our team about domestic abuse or any other family law matter contact us on 0800 923 2074 or email email@example.com.
Family law solicitors who combine expertise with understanding