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02.04.2020

Domestic Abuse & Injunctions

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Home Minister Priti Patel recently commented that “Domestic abuse victims are allowed to leave home to seek help at refuges despite rules to stop coronavirus spreading. “

If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic abuse, several organisations can help, including National Centre For Domestic Violence, Women’s Aid, & Refuge. National Legal Service Solicitors are available to assist with the legal aspect of the case.

An injunction is a court order which prohibits contact between individuals and can involve removing someone from a home or apartment. The most common form of injunctions includes Non-Molestation Orders & Occupation Orders.

Non-Molestation Orders:

A non-molestation order prevents an abuser from using or threatening violence or making threats, sending abusive messages, or making repeated phone calls.

It is important to note that a non-molestation order can only be obtained by an ‘associated’ person including spouses, partners or those deemed to be in in a ‘significant’ relationship

Occupation orders:

In the event you feel unsafe and do not wish to continue living with your partner, it is advised to also secure an occupation order. An occupation order legalises who can live in the family home and can restrict a person from entering a certain area.

For more detailed information, read our blog on the injunctions process.

The above is a very brief outline of the type of injunctions and terms that you could apply for. Full details and options will be set out by one of our specialist family lawyers.

Head of Family, Kirsty Richards comments

The current Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact all across the world and is causing a lot of anxiety for many. It is extremely concerning to think that amidst this already difficult time, the risk of domestic abuse will increase, and for that reason we have moved incredibly fast to ensure all our teams are able to work remotely and continue to secure whatever series of protective orders are required for our clients.

It is welcome guidance that it has been made clear for any victim of abuse that they are able to leave a family home to seek urgent refuge if required. We at National Legal Service Solicitors are ready to deal with any increase in referrals and will continue to deliver sensitive and high quality client care through such unprecedented times.

Domestic Abuse and injunction solicitors

With National Legal Service Solicitors you will have access to Family & Children Law accredited specialists across our network of 19 branch offices.

If you or your children have experienced domestic abuse, we can talk to you about your options and apply for an injunction.

We have helped more than 2,500 victims of domestic abuse across the country get the legal protection they need.

To speak with our team of family and divorce solicitors call us on 020 3601 5051 or fill in our enquiry form online.

 

07.03.2020

Children: The hidden victims of domestic abuse

Written by Rosita Mendonca

The statistics involving domestic abuse and children continue to be shocking – a recent BBC report highlights that calls to the NSPCC about children witnessing the most serious forms of abuse have jumped 25% in a year. It is no wonder that while the new domestic abuse bill is ‘widely supported’, charities including Bernardo’s & Action for Children do not believe the bill goes far enough to try to help children affected by abuse.

The Children Act 1989 was amended to recognise that even witnessing or overhearing domestic violence causes harm to children and is therefore very relevant when considering child contact issues. Read our blog which explains the impact of domestic abuse on children & measures that can be taken to safeguard a child.

According to a report in 2016, Women’s Aid identified that 19 children were killed by their violent fathers in the last 10 years after being granted contact by Judges in Court.

Perpetrators of abuse are often able to continue to abuse the victim through Child Contact Arrangements which put the victim at risk as well as the children. It is therefore vital that expert advice is received if you have been a victim of domestic abuse.

Kirsty Richards, Head of Family comments:

 The impact of abuse on children cannot be forgotten or overlooked in the drive to develop the law and protection in place for victims of domestic abuse. As a member of the law society’s children panel, I feel very strongly about the voice of the child and welcome any discussions around the child/ren of families where domestic abuse is an issue

Family Law Solicitors

At National Legal Service Solicitors, we understand the effects of domestic abuse on children – and when domestic abuse is present, contact with children may have to be specially considered. Our advice is clear and based on many years’ experience of children, families and the law.

If you or your child or children have been victims of domestic abuse, you may be entitled to legal aid.  For more information, please call 020 3601 5051 or fill in our enquiry form 

06.03.2020

Getting an injunction if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse

Written by Raman Dhillon

Domestic abuse can take many forms. Frequent examples that we come across include verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse although this is not an exhaustive list.

Types of Injunction

 Both non-molestation orders and occupation orders are types of injunctions which can offer you protection from your abuser. They are Court Orders that prohibit someone from doing something that is causing you harm

Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 defines the two main types of injunctions:

  • A Non-Molestation Order can be used to prevent your partner, former partner or an associated person from being violent towards you or any children. It prevents this person from using threatening behaviour towards you. It also prevents intimidation, harassment and pestering (including in-person or remotely by letter, email, phone or social media) to ensure both your own and your children’s safety.

 

  • An Occupation Order can be used when the future occupation of a property is in dispute. This Order defines who can live in the family home and can extend to preventing your abuser from being in the surrounding area. One person could effectively be required to leave the home because of their violent behaviour towards you or the effect that their presence is having on your children.

 

Breaching a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order is a criminal offence and a power of arrest is automatically attached to these types of Injunction. A copy of the Injunction, once granted and served on the respondent, is lodged with the Police so they can act on any breaches. If you have an injunction in place the Police will take action regardless of whether your abuser (the respondent) has committed any other criminal offences.

Who can apply for an injunction?

You must be classed as an ‘associated person’ to apply for an injunction under the FLA 1996. This means that you and your abuser must be associated with each other in one of the following ways:

  • •You are/were married.
  • •You are/ were in a civil partnership.
  • •You are/were cohabitants.
  • •You live/lived in the same household.
  • •You are relatives.
  • •You formally agreed to marry each other (even if this is no longer the case).
  • •You have a child together.
  • •You had an ‘intimate relationship of significant duration’.

If you are applying for an occupation order, you must either have a legal right to occupy the home in question (as a joint or sole tenant or owner), or you have to be or have been, married to or living with a partner who is the owner or tenant of the property.

Obtaining an injunction

To obtain a Non-Molestation Order against your abuser, you must make an application to Court supported by a witness statement detailing the allegations of domestic abuse. Once your application is issued you will be referred to as the ’Applicant’ and the abuser will be referred to as the ‘Respondent’. You can either apply for the orders without notice to the respondent or on notice to the respondent.

If you are applying on notice to the respondent, that means the Respondent will be notified of your application and a Court hearing will be set which you will both be invited to attend. When applying for the Injunction it can be made clear if you require special measures, such as separate waiting areas or screens during the hearing if you do not want to be in contact with the Respondent whilst at Court.

During the first hearing of an on notice application, the Respondent will be asked whether he agrees or contests (disputes) the application and orders sought. If they admit the allegations against them (or fail to attend) then provided the court is satisfied the respondent has indeed had notice of the hearing date and time, the appropriate Injunction Order is usually made and the order is typically granted for six or 12 months – but this can be longer in some cases. Once expired, an application can be made to renew the Order if necessary.

If the Respondent denies the allegations or is not willing to leave the property, the case proceeds to a contested final hearing which is when the Judge will decide whether to make the Non-Molestation or Occupation Order or to dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate (promises to the court in the same/ similar terms as the orders sought). Before any final hearing, you will have the opportunity to prepare further evidence to assist the Court in reaching a decision. Police disclosure can also be obtained if there has been previous police involvement concerning domestic abuse as well as evidence from any witnesses, if relevant and appropriate.

Applying for injunctions without notice “ex-parte”

If there is a risk that notifying your abuser of the application could induce more violence or intimidation and/or there is a risk the respondent may evade service of the court papers, then it is possible to apply to Court on an ‘ex-parte’ basis, without notice to them. This means your abuser is unaware of the application until after the initial hearing and only at the point upon which the application and any orders granted are served on them – (once the respondent has been “served” with the papers you are protected by the terms of any order made). As the respondent would not be in attendance at the initial hearing if you have applied without notice to them, the court will list a further hearing “return hearing” at which you are both invited to attend so that the Judge can either confirm the orders remain in place (and for how long), dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate.

 

Domestic Abuse Solicitors 

Ending a relationship on account of domestic abuse or any other forms of abuse can be difficult. Our team of legal aid family law solicitors specialise in domestic abuse cases and can assist with your situation and expand on the points set out above, as advice will be tailored to your specific circumstances.

Over the last 24 months, National Legal Service Solicitors has helped more than 2,500 survivors of abuse across our 19 branch offices secure Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders for those in need of protection along with Prohibited Steps, Child Arrangements and Specific Issue Orders.

To speak to our solicitors call 0203 601 5051 or complete our online enquiry form.

31.01.2020

Domestic abuse and the problem with evidence

Written by Jasbir Raindi

A serious and ongoing issue for victims of domestic abuse is the problem with evidence. Let’s take Jack & Jill as an example (names picked at random). Jack and Jill were in a 3 year relationship and lived together for about 18 months before the relationship finally ended in December 2019. The problem was that Jack was controlling and violent towards Jill. Once the couple began living together and were locked into a rental agreement, Jack began to slowly tell Jill what to wear and whom she could speak to. This lead to Jack making Jill believe that nobody was there for her or cared for except for Jack himself. Jill was cut off from her family and friends. Jill was led to believe she had no choice but to stay with Jack. When Jill went out to the shops or to work, Jack would send her up to 20 messages throughout the day asking for constant updates about where she was and what she was doing.

Matters came to a head in June 2019 when Jill finally confronted Jack about his controlling ways. Jack struck Jill with a punch to her face, breaking her nose. Jill, shocked, ran and sought medical attention. However, Jack followed and took her to A&E where Jill convinced the nurse she was mugged. She was too afraid to tell the truth. Soon thereafter, Jill discovered that Jack had a drinking problem and hit Jill again whilst drunk and in a rage several more times. Jill finally had the courage to walk out of the shared home on 15th December 2019 to stay with her mother. Jack was not happy about this and began to follow Jill. He bombarded her with calls from private numbers which when Jill answered Jack would call her abusive names. The situation persisted until Jack came to Jill’s mother’s home, shouting threats at Jill and banging on the front door. When Jill was alone during the day,  Jack promised to return and make her life a misery for leaving him.

Jill called the police. Sadly, they only arrived the day after the threatening behaviour took place at the front door. The police took a statement from Jill about the threats, and about the history of violent behaviour and control. By this time any physical injuries Jill sustained had already healed and thus there was no medical evidence. The abuse all occurred behind closed doors and there were no witnesses to the problems at Jill’s mother’s front door. The police told Jill that the verbal abuse alone was insufficient evidence to proceed.

The difficulty Jill faced was that the police needed to be satisfied that they could ultimately prove to a criminal court the guilt of Jack’s behaviour beyond reasonable doubt – essentially that there was no doubt at all that Jack committed these offences. Unless there was some level of certainty about this, such as  an independent witnesses, admission of guilt from Jack, or evidence of injuries, the police were not likely to proceed to protect a victim like Jill.

However, there is another way. The Family Court only needs to be satisfied on balance of probabilities before making an order to protect Jill. This means that the court would take into account all of the evidence to make a decision whether it is more likely than not that Jill had been a victim of harm from Jack and was a victim of further harm.

Jill consulted her family solicitor who took full details about the history of the problems and risk of future harm. Jill was advised to ask the court to make a Non-Molestation Order for her protection from Jack to prevent him from contacting her in any manner, using violence against or threatening Jill. Jill was very worried that if Jack knew about what she was doing that he would escalate the harassment so Jill applied for and secured her Non-Molestation Order without notice to Jack. Jack was served with the order and Jill had immediate protection. If the order was now breached Jack would be arrested.

In summary, if the police and criminal justice system cannot help victims such as Jill, then the Family Court can step in. Hope is not lost.  Victims like Jill deserve to live life without further fear or anxiety and people like Jack need to have their behaviour controlled. Where the police cannot help always speak to a family Solicitor near you to consider your options.

National Legal Service Solicitors – Domestic Abuse Solicitors and Family Lawyers in Birmingham

The Birmingham branch has grown from a modest team of 2 solicitors and 3 caseworkers to over 15  advocates, paralegals and support staff situated in the former Lewis’s Department Store building next door to Birmingham Family Court.

Over the last 18 months, Supervising Solicitor Jasbir Raindi and his team in Birmingham have helped more than 400  survivors of abuse in securing Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders for adults and children in need of protection along with Prohibited Steps, Child Arrangements and Specific Issue Orders, to help parents safeguard their children. Our team specialises in representing parents and children involved in public law proceedings and matrimonial disputes.

Our team of Family solicitors in Birmingham specialise in representing victims of harm and children at risk of removal in emergencies to secure orders without notice to the opponent, when such notice could place the victim at immediate risk. We offer full legal advice to those who qualify and we always consider this before providing information about our private fees.

To speak to our solicitors in Birmingham call 0203 601 5051 or compete our online enquiry form.

05.11.2019

Domestic Abuse bill falls for the second time in two months

Written by Rosita Mendonca

The Domestic Abuse Bill, which aimed to ‘transform the national response to domestic abuse’ and end the practice of allowing domestic abusers the opportunity to cross-examine their victims in court has fallen for a second time in two months on account of the next month’s general election.

All bills that have failed to achieve royal assent by the time parliament is dissolved on Wednesday will fall- this includes the Domestic Abuse Bill, which fell on 10 September, when parliament was unlawfully prorogued, but was reintroduced in the Queen’s speech on 14 October.

Also at a standstill are the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which introduces provisions for no-fault divorce, and the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure Bill).

25.09.2019

Domestic Violence Killings at a Five year High

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Last year, 173 people were killed in domestic violence related homicides, an increase of 32 deaths on 2017, according to data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK. This figure has steadily increased from 2014.

Domestic violence homicides are not just committed by a partner or spouse, they can also be committed by family members such as parents, brothers and sisters. Whilst acknowledging that men can be victims, the BBC states that the vast majority are women, and refer to the Office for National Statistics data for domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year to March 2018, which indicates that between April 2014 and March 2017, around three-quarters of victims of domestic killings by a partner, ex-partner or family member were women.

Efforts are being made by Government to tackle the ever growing issues of domestic violence and with the introduction of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and Claire’s Law, which sees people being able to check the background of their partner should they suspect may have a history of domestic violence, is a step closer in trying to protect individuals against domestic violence. Despite this, homicide as a result of domestic violence continues to grow.

The Government have hired Nicole Jacobs from Standing Together Against Domestic Violence as the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to spearhead the £69b campaign to tackle the problem. It is hoped this campaign will see the number of victims and homicides of domestic and sexual violence reduce significantly.

At National Legal Service Solicitors, we have a team of accredited solicitors that include specialists in domestic abuse cases who can help obtain court orders on an emergency basis. For more information, please call us on 0203 601 5051

16.09.2019

Domestic Abuse Bill to be reintroduced following prorogation of Parliament

Written by Rosita Mendonca

The Prime Minister took to twitter to confirm that the government was ‘fully committed’ to reintroducing new legislation to protect victims of domestic abuse following concerns it had been axed as a result of Parliament’s suspension last week.

Prorogation will suspend all existing bills making their way through Parliament, unless the government chooses to carry them over to the next session beginning on 14 October. When Parliament returns on this date, although any dropped bills can be re-introduced, all progress made is lost and the process must start from scratch.

The government chose to carry over three pieces of legislation, dropping both the Domestic Abuse Bill and the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill (which aimed to bring in a system of no-fault divorce). The Domestic Abuse Bill included the introduction of the first statutory definition of domestic abuse (including both financial and non-physical behaviour), the prohibition on perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family courts and the introduction of a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order.

Women’s rights groups including Women’s Aid, Imkaan and the Centre for Women’s Justice wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to ensure the Bill remains ‘a priority’ for the government’s next session. ‘Whatever happens next, the Prime Minister must confirm that protecting the rights and safety of survivors is a priority,’ said Nicki Norman, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid. ‘Over two years, thousands of survivors have bravely shared their experiences of domestic abuse with the government and fought to improve support for women and children. They must not be betrayed.’

02.09.2019

Financial Abuse is Domestic Abuse

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Like all forms of domestic abuse at the centre of it is usually one person exercising control over another. Abuse can take many forms- emotional, physical, psychological and financial. Financial abuse (or economic abuse) is an aspect of  ‘coercive control’, which is a pattern of controlling, degrading and/or threatening conduct which takes away the victim’s freedom. Financial abuse is one of the most frequent ways that perpetrators exercise a significant level of control over their partners and enables them to be able to restrict their partner’s movements and keep tabs on their lives. Often victims do not have the financial knowledge or means to be able to support themselves and their children independently- as a result, people feel there is no alternative but to remain in an abusive relationship.

Almost a fifth of adults in the UK have been a victim of financial abuse in a current or past relationship. This rarely occurs in isolation – 8 out of 10 people had also been victims of other forms of abuse in their relationship.

 

These were findings of a joint campaign conducted in 2015 with The Co-operative Bank and Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, which aimed to raise awareness of the scale of the issue of financial abuse.  Key findings from this study also include:-

  • 60% of all cases are reported by women although victims spanned all gender, age and income groups.
  • A third of financial abuse victims suffer in silence, telling no-one
  • 78% of women & 23% of men said their abuse went on over five years
  • For women reporting experience of the problem, the abuse tended to start at key life stages: 71% said it was when they moved in with a partner, 75% said it was when they got married, and 30% when they had children. Among men the figures were 28%, 25% and 30% respectively.

 

Escaping financial abuse

If you are being subjected to financial abuse, you may be apply for a Non-Molestation Order and/or an Occupation Order.  A Non-Molestation Order is used not only to protect you from actual or threatened physical violence but also form wider forms of abuse, such as financial abuse where it is having a significant impact on your emotional well being. (You will need to see if you satisfy a legal test around the association of you to the alleged perpetrator as well as evidencing that the abuse is causing you significant harm).  Depending on the seriousness of your situation, you may be able to apply for a non molestation order without notice to the alleged perpetrator.  However, there will most likely be a second hearing listed on notice so the other party is then able to attend court to say whether they contest the order).

An Occupation Order gives you the right to remain in your home and can restrict your abuser from entering it. It can also define the areas that can be occupied if you need to both continue residing in the property. You need to understand whether you have a legal right to be in the property before considering if you are able to apply for an Occupation Order.  This type of order can be crucial for a victim of economic abuse because they usually do not have access to the money they need to move away from their abuser.

As with applications for Non-Molestation Orders, Occupation Orders can be made ex-parte, which means you will appear before a judge without your abuser being present.  Any order granted ex-parte is only temporary, a full hearing must take place at a later date.  However, the making of an occupation order ex parte requires strong evidence as to the justifications for such an order.  There is a list of considerations you will have to address in your evidence to demonstrate how the balance for the making of this type of order should fall in your favour.

Breaching a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence and can result in a fine and/or up to five years in prison.  Although breaching and Occupation Order is not a criminal offence; a power to arrest can be attached to the order by the court.

 

Funding for your financial abuse matter

It may be possible to obtain legal aid for non-molestation orders and occupation orders and we are happy to have assessment interviews with you via telephone to see if you would meet the eligibility criteria and to discuss what evidence you would need to obtain to meet the eligibility criteria.

 

Protection against financial abuse 

If you are concerned that someone is financially abusing you or are worried for a relative or friend, the Money Advice Service offers help on financial abuse and other financial issues.

National Legal Service Solicitors have significant experience representing people in divorce proceedings involving domestic abuse.  For confidential information, please call our office on 020 3601 5051.

11.06.2019

Men Are Victims of Domestic Abuse Too!

Written by Rosita Mendonca

While the overwhelming assumption is that domestic abuse victims are female, research from Mankind Initiative highlights some concerning statistics:

  • For every three victims of domestic abuse in the UK, one will be male
  • 13% of men (aged 16 – 59 years old) have suffered a form of domestic abuse since the age of 16
  • In 2017/18, 4.2% of men (approximately 695,000) experienced domestic abuse
  • One in every five victims of forced marriage is a man
  • In 2017/18, 7 men died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner

Owing to regressive ideas of what abuse looks like, male victims of domestic abuse find it harder to access help. Nearly half of male victims fail to tell anyone they are a victim of domestic (only 51% tell anyone). They are nearly three times less likely to tell anyone than a female victim (49% as opposed to 19%).

National Legal Service Solicitors has helped more than 3,000 victims of domestic abuse in the last year. We feel strongly that each victim should be seen as an individual and helped accordingly irrespective of their gender.

Positive Steps Undertaken

In September 2017, The Crown Prosecution Service published its first ever public statement recognising the needs and experiences of male victims of offences including rape, domestic abuse, harassment, stalking and child sexual abuse. The CPS statement covers

  • Plans to give prosecutors more information, to help them better understand the experiences of male victims and the barriers to them reporting offences;
  • A commitment to work with third sector organisations and campaign groups to challenge gender stereotypes and improve reporting;
  • Proposals to involve more national men’s groups, as well as groups working with boys and girls, in the scrutiny of CPS policies.

Head of Family, Ms Kirsty Richards comments,

Over the years I have assisted many male victims of domestic abuse and it is my experience that despite there being lots of positive campaigning around domestic abuse, there can remain a prejudice in the court arena.  This was more so around 10-12 years ago, when I remember vividly, that I was helping a male victim to obtain a non molestation order and there were linked children act proceedings wherein we were trying to keep the child of the family safe from the mother’s abuse.  Despite clear photographic evidence of injuries to the male victim and supporting statements from doctors and teachers, the Judge that heard the case did not accept the risks posed by the mother to my client or the child.  In fact, a comment was that the mother’s outburst were as a result of her “latino temperament”,  a comment that haunted me for some time as what flowed was that the father went from being primary carer of the couple’s child, to the Judge changing the arrangements on the ground, giving the mother the majority time each week, and my client went from being primary carer for 5 years, to having an order detailing the 3 nights a week he would care for the child.

That was one of the most extreme cases I have ever dealt with and I have continued to do all I can to assist male victims whenever they have approached me but I have continued to face difficulties.  Even securing legal aid can be troublesome if you have a male victim (the “true applicant”) but the respondent issues cross applications and makes representations about your funding.  Again, photographs of injuries had to be sent as justification and that case was another example where there was disbelief that a woman of relatively small stature could cause the violence and injuries alleged in my client’s witness statements.  We need to continue giving male victims a voice and we need to educate everyone that domestic abuse can be committed by women.  The law is there to protect the victim, we have to have our eyes open to who the true victim is when we are dealing with this area of law.

Help is out there

  • You can call the ManKind Initiative helpline for support on 01823 334244
  • You can also call the Men’s Advice Line for confidential help, information, advice and support on 0808 801 0327
  • If you are in immediate danger, please call 999
  • Contact a member of our legal team  on 0203 601 5051 if you feel you need protection from domestic abuse