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Lockdown and Domestic Violence

When the current lockdown measures were announced on the 23rd March 2020, many expressed a concern that this would result in many more people becoming a victim of domestic violence. 

This was hardly a surprise. Domestic violence is not simply limited to physical violence. The recognised definition of Domestic Violence describes domestic violence as “any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse”. Isolating a victim from friends and family has always been a strategy commonly used by perpetrators of such behaviour and abuse. To force an individual to isolate, as the current measures do, can only aid a perpetrator with this strategy. 

The BBC has now reported that, after the first 3 weeks of lockdown, the calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline was 49% higher than normal. After the first week of lockdown the Men’s Advice Line saw a 17% increase in the number of calls. Alarmingly, the BBC reports that 16 people have been killed during lockdown as a result of incidents of domestic violence. Sadly, as the period of lockdown gets longer, these distressing figures will probably only get worse.

Many are turning to social media, leaving coded messages to allow for those needing help to contact them, and the authorities could be contacted. In 2014, and there was a case in America where a woman rang 911 on the pretence of ordering pizza to obtain help when her partner became violent with her.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to understand that you can access services to assist you and help you get out of your current situation. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline and the Men’s Advice Line are two such services, along with the police.

In many circumstances you may need more than help and advice. This may mean applying to the Family Court for an injunction or other types of Court Order to protect the children.

There are two types of injunction, namely a non-molestation order and an occupation order. A non-molestation order primarily prohibits a partner or spouse form using or threatening violence against you or your children, or intimidating or harassing you. An occupation order sets out who can live in the family home. Both types of orders can contain specific provisions, including restricting someone from entering an area around the home in which you live.

To apply for a non molestation order, you must be an associated person, who is defined as including former and current spouses, civil partners, cohabitants, fiancés, relatives, parents of your child or anyone with whom you have been in an intimate personal relationship of significant duration. 

It may be necessary to apply for a child arrangements order to determine any contact the partner can have with the children. The court is obliged to consider, at the earliest opportunity as to whether domestic violence should limit, or prevent, any time the children are to spend with the violent partner.

The courts may be largely closed to the public. However, all courts have developed methods during this period to allow people to access assistance. This means that the Family Courts remain open to allow applications for injunctive orders, largely by email. Most court hearings are by telephone.

The Family Law team at Cartwright King can advise you as to whether you are able to apply for such an Order and can act on your behalf to draft and make the application.  We can also advise you as to any other issue that arises such as how to protect your children and issues around divorce or separation.

Legal Aid is readily available in circumstances whereby domestic violence has occurred and the rules around the information that needs to be provided, has been relaxed during the current circumstances. We can advise you as to whether legal aid is available.

Cartwright King has lawyers in most areas of law, and the current information we are sharing is written by family lawyer Graham Neil of Cartwright King. 

If you have any further queries around the above topic or otherwise, contact the firm here.

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