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7 June 2020
As concerns continue to grow for victims of domestic abuse in these uncertain times, we are more than ever providing legal advice to those who require protection from domestic abuse.
A recent report by domestic abuse charity Refuge states an increase of 49% in calls to their National Domestic Abuse Helpline after just three weeks of lockdown. Researchers at the Counting Dead Women Project recently reported 14 women and two children had been killed in the first three weeks of lockdown, the largest number of killings in a three-week period for 11 years, and more than double the average.
The Government’s advice on social distancing does not prevent those who find themselves in an abusive relationship from fleeing to a place of safety. The Home secretary, Prita Patel stated that “Whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing domestic abuse is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused –whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.”
How can I seek help for myself?
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, it is important for you to know that as a victim you will not be breaking the law if you need to seek help outside the home during the current restrictions.
The advice from the government for those in immediate danger is as follows:
- If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard - this will transfer your call to the police.
- Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.
- If only background noise can be heard and BT operators cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, then you will be connected to a police call handler.
- If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick up again.
- When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about your location should be automatically available to the call handlers to help provide a response.
Further information and advice is available from the government here, including specific guidance for members of the LGBTQ and the BME communities, help and guidance for those with disabilities, and a wealth of other information.
There are often sources of help in your local area such as refuges and charitable organisations. Nationally, the Domestic Abuse charity Refuge run the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which you can call for free, and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. Its website provides guidance and support for potential victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones.
Once safe to do so, you should seek advice from a specialist domestic abuse solicitor here at JWP Solicitors. You can contact us during office hours on 01924 387171, or on our 24/7 emergency contact number 07876 505 336.
What is a non-molestation order?
A non-molestation order is a protective injunction against a connected person, namely a spouse, ex-partner or family member, which prevents them from using or threatening violence against you, communicating with you, or coming near your property.
As a victim of domestic abuse, you are entitled to legal aid to obtain a non-molestation order. If you are in receipt of a passporting benefit, such as universal credit, income support or ESA payments, or receive a disposable income of less than £733 per month, then it is likely you will be entitled to a full legal aid certificate.
However, on some occasions, if the legal aid agency deem that your income or amount of capital is over the threshold, then you will be asked to make a monthly financial contribution whilst ever your case is ongoing.
A non-molestation order application can be made on an emergency “without notice” basis, if you are at immediate risk of serious harm. The Court can hear your application the same day you make the application and without the opponent being aware of such application. If the Judge makes the Order, we will arrange for personal service of the non-molestation order on the opponent and the Police.
The non-molestation order will include a return date, which is a Court date usually around a week later that will allow the opponent to attend Court and set out their position. Given the current lockdown, the Courts are presently hearing such applications remotely by way of telephone conference.
The opponent can either agree to the Order remaining in place, offer a promise to the Court that they won’t do the things stated in the order (an undertaking) which must be acceptable to both you and the Judge, or contest the application. It is likely that the Order, if made on a without notice basis, will remain in place until any further hearing, where the Judge will hear evidence and decide the application.
Although a non-molestation order must be applied for in the family Court, a breach of a non-molestation Order is a criminal offence. Therefore, if the abuser is in breach of the order, you must phone the Police who should deal with the matter. Breach of a non-molestation order is a serious matter and can result in a lengthy prison sentence.
What if I suspect someone may be at risk?
If you suspect that someone you know may be subject to domestic abuse, the government advice is to report it to the police. It’s important to remember that domestic abuse is not limited to the kind of physical abuse which leaves visible marks, but can take other forms such as; coercive control and ‘gaslighting’, financial control, online abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
At JWP, we have decades of experience in helping those suffering domestic abuse. If you have suffered any form of abuse and require assistance, then our solicitors can offer you confidential and discreet advice and will handle your case sensitively and at your pace.
You can message us through our website at jwpsolicitors.co.uk, or call at a safe time 24 hours a day on our emergency line 07876 505 336