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Merseyside Police release advice for victims of domestic abuse concerned about staying at home
The domestic violence lockdown is worrying Merseyside Police who are now encouraging everyone to become familiar with options within the 999 system. If people are not free to speak but are able to make a noise or press 55, it alerts the BT operator to the fact that you need help and they can then connect to the police. For example, if you can only make a noise such as tapping the handset, coughing, crying or even talking to the offender, then these actions will alert the attention of the BT operator. Mark Groves, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, comments on the initiative: During these extremely difficult times, we need victims of domestic abuse to be aware of every initiative that is available to help them. Many victims cannot speak on the phone or even use an app for fear of reprisals from their abuser, but if they can make a covert call to alert the police they are in danger this could save lives. Katha Lunt, experienced domestic abuse lawyer from our Liverpool branch, comments: The message from Merseyside Police is clear. Protection from domestic violence remains a priority during these difficult times. Domestic Violence helplines are reporting a significant increase in telephone calls and visitors to their websites. With the country on lockdown, there is a real risk those suffering domestic violence will feel they have no access to protective measures, at a time when they are being required to spend more and more time with the perpetrator of their abuse. We must ensure the message is received by those who require protection from domestic abuse; help is still available. Since the government’s restriction on all but essential travel, steps have been taken within the Justice System to ensure people continue to have access to urgent protective orders including Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders. Here at National Legal Service Solicitors Liverpool, whilst working from home over… [...]
The health and safety of our clients and staff is our top priority.
Although we have decided to temporarily close our offices due to the current health concerns with COVID-19, we have robust structures in place to minimise any disruption to the provision of legal services to our clients. Our team of solicitors and paralegals are able to work remotely from home via secure networks and will be able to deal with your requirements promptly and efficiently.
At National Legal Service Solicitors we handle in excess of 3,000 cases each year and over 90% of those are managed without our clients having to visit our offices. Our combination of agile, secure remote access facilities and paperless working environment allow us to provide alternatives including:
- Advice and consultations over the phone
- Video conferencing with our solicitors and specialist legal advisers
- Remote document signature facilities
We believe we can handle your matter more efficiently using technology but still provide a personal and professional service – but don’t just take our word for it, take a look at our testimonials page!
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.
The latest version of the Domestic Abuse Bill is scheduled to have its first reading in the House of Commons. The enhanced version of the Bill is seen as ‘monumental step’ that aims to go even further to support and protect victims of abuse.
The bill includes new measures, such as requiring tier one local authorities (county councils and unitary authorities) to provide support and ensure safe accommodation for victims and their children; and to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts. The legislation also seeks to include a new definition of abuse – ‘economic abuse’ which restricts a person’s access to resources such as money, food, transport, utilities, employment and housing.
The coming of age bill is designed to be ‘future proof’ – with nearly 72% of people being abused through technology (according to Refuge), the bill will now include ‘tech abuse’ – where abusers use personal and home devices and smart gadgets to control their victim.
In addition, those deemed at high risk of re-offending will be given regular polygraph tests to find out if they have breached release conditions. The Home Office added that the proposed lie detector tests have been “successfully used” with sex offenders since 2013
Hidden Victims of Abuse
While amendments to the bill have been ‘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.
Imran Hussain, Director of policy and campaigns, for Action for Children said it was “vital” the bill recognised a child as an “innocent victim and not just a witness”.
Emily Hilton, a senior policy officer at the NSPCC, said the government was missing a “landmark opportunity” to make a difference, adding: “It is extremely disappointing that the bill in its current form fails to protect children from the devastating impact of living with domestic abuse, leaving thousands at continued risk because the help they deserve is not in place.
Head of Family Kirsty Richards comments
It is vital that the law continues to develop and react to the differing forms of domestic abuse so it is possible for practitioners to apply for and secure protection for clients that are suffering harm (in the wider sense of the definition). This is a positive step and we at National Legal Service Solicitors remain committed to trying to secure protective orders for clients suffering domestic abuse, whatever the nature of that abuse.
The Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) has released its latest statistics on the work of the Family Court, for July to September 2019. Some of the highlights of the report include:
- On average, care proceedings took longer with fewer disposals within 26 weeks
The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 33 weeks in July to September 2019, up three weeks from the same quarter in 2018. 42% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks – down nearly 10 % compared with the same period for 2018.
- General upward trend in the number of forced marriage protection orders and female genital mutilation protection orders
In July to September 2019 there were 101 applications for Forced Marriages, of which 69% of applicants were aged 17 and under. Over the same period, there were 140 orders made, almost double the number of orders made in the same period from the previous year. The increase in the number of orders does not necessarily represent an increase in the prevalence of forced marriage, but a greater awareness of forced marriage being a crime.
The number of applications and orders made for female genital mutilation protection orders (FGMPOs) is very small, with only 33 applications and 71 orders made respectively in July to September 2019. In total, there have been 408 applications and 489 orders made up to the end of September 2019, since their introduction in July 2015.
- Increase in the number of domestic violence orders made
There were 8,839 domestic violence orders made in July to September 2019, up 18% from the same period last year, also representing the highest number since the beginning of the time series in 2009. 93% were non-molestation orders and 7% were occupation orders, with non-molestation orders up 19% and occupation orders up 9% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2018.
The increase in orders may be linked to changes in legislation which were introduced in January 2018 – this included expanding the scope of existing evidence and completely removing the time limit from all forms of evidence for domestic abuse.
To review the latest family court statistics, click here.
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As part of the firm’s wider charitable activities, we will once again be taking part in this year’s London Legal Walk on the 17th of June.
The London Legal Walk is a 10km sponsored walk across the city to raise funds for charities that give free legal advice. The team will be walking alongside a number of other law firms, chambers and organisations raising money in aid of a great cause.
There were 870 non-profit legal aid providers in 2013, according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice. By 2014 this had fallen to just 95. Significant cuts to Government spending as well as Legal aid has resulted in reduced funding bring available for important issues such as immigration and homelessness.
This year again, we walk with other members of the profession to raise funds so the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community can have access to justice and avail free legal advice.
Harun Matin, Head of Crime commented :
We took part in the walk last year and felt the community came together perfectly to highlight the importance of supporting vulnerable people. These ongoing funding cuts affects those who are vulnerable and on the margins of society, it’s our duty to ensure that their plight is not forgotten
Kirsty Richards, Head of Family said:
This is such a worthy cause and its lovely to see so many legal professionals and all those involved with law coming together to champion what we do on a daily basis. NLS will continue to be a part of this walk as it is vital for spreading awareness of the plight of legal aid
If you would like to sponsor the team and raise money for a great cause, please visit our fundraising page here. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.
An estimated 1.3 million women & 700,000 men experience domestic violence each year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ending March 2018)
It is now well accepted that domestic abuse can have a profound impact on a survivors’ mental health and is the main cause of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.
- 64% ( almost two thirds) of domestic abuse survivors experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1
- Between 30 and 60% of psychiatric in-patients had experienced severe domestic abuse 2
- 16% of victims report that they have considered or attempted suicide as a result of the abuse, and 13% report self-harming 3
- Exposure to domestic violence has a significant impact on children’s mental health. Many studies have found strong links with poorer educational outcomes and higher levels of mental health problems 4
Head of Family, Kirsty Richards comments
Domestic abuse has far-reaching consequences for the victims and the children of those families. Many of the clients that we help at NLS describe the often-devastating impact on their mental wellbeing from the abuse they have suffered/ are continuing to suffer. There is a lot of campaigning for better understanding of domestic abuse which is seeing a positive change in the wider understanding of abuse and its impact on the health and wellbeing of victims but we need to keep talking about it. The more we discuss abuse and the mental health implications, hopefully strength is given to other victims to recognise they too are in an abusive relationship and hopefully give them the confidence to escape the life and put protective measures in place. Sadly, most of us will be impacted by domestic abuse at one point in our lives be it directly or through a loved one or friend that is a victim. We need to keep up the pace of these awareness campaigns to ensure that there are options for victims and we at NLS certainly remain committed to providing as much support as possible to anyone needing advice about what to do
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and have decided to leave your abuser, there many organisations that can help you :-
- National Domestic Violence helpline
The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a 24 hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation. The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a 24 hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation.
Refuge offers advice and support to women experiencing domestic abuse and also provides safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refuges throughout the UK, including culturally-specific services for women from minority ethnic communities and cultures.
- Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice, and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.
- Women’s Aid
The Women’s Aid website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people
- ManKind Initiative
The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. This can include information and support on reporting incidents, police procedures, housing, benefits and injunctions. They can refer you to a refuge, local authority or other another support service if you need it.
- Everyman Project
The Everyman Project offers counselling to men in the London area who want to change their violent or abusive behaviour. It also has a national helpline, which offers advice to anyone worried about their own, or someone else’s, violent or abusive behaviour.
Helpline: 0207 263 8884
1 Trevillion, K., Oram, S., Feder, G., & Howard, L.M. (2012). Experiences of domestic violence and mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS One, 7, e51740
2Howard, L.M., Trevillion, K., Khalifeh, H., Woodall, A., Agnew-Davies, R. and Feder, G. (2010), Domestic violence and severe psychiatric disorders: prevalence and interventions in ‘Psychological Medicine’ (2010), 40 ,881-893. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives
4 Gilbert, R., Kemp, A., Thoburn, J., Sidebotham, P., Radford, L., Glaser, D., & MacMillan, H. (2009). Recognising and responding to child maltreatment. The Lancet, 373(9658), 167–180