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7 April 2014
This is a commonly asked question when I speak to clients who are experiencing harassment or domestic abuse. Many people in different situations can at times experience some form of harassment or molestation, sometimes it can be as a result of a difficult relationship breakdown or a family dispute, or sometimes it can be a case of unrequited attention or a dispute between neighbours or work colleagues. A lot of people who have experienced difficulty don’t always realise that help is available.
A common misconception by some people is that they don’t feel they require or would be able to obtain an injunction unless there has been a physical assault. That is not the case. Molestation can take many different forms from the obvious physical assaults to harassment, pestering or intimidation through social media and phone calls or texts.
There are a few different terms that people use such as injunctions, restraining orders or non molestation orders. Essentially they all provide the same thing, some form of protection to the person in whose favour the order is made by prohibiting the perpetrator from pursuing a course of conduct or bahaving in a particular way. This can take the form of prohibiting somebody from coming near your home or place of work or contacing you in any way.
In terms of funding legal aid is still available to apply for a non-molestion order under the Family Law Act 1996, subject to the level of your income and capital, and providing the Legal Aid Agency accept that a court order is required. Even when your income or capital is above the usual limits for legal aid family work, legal aid will still usually be available for an application for a non-molestation order, subject to you making a contribution towards the legal aid costs.
An application can be made for an a non-molestation order under the Family Law Act against anyone who meets the criteria for " an associated person". This is a catagory that has been widened in recent years and will include most family members, former partners, spouses and former spouses. If you are experiencing problems with someone who is not an associated person, such as a next door neighbour an application for an injunction could still be made under the Protection From Harassment Act. If you believe that you may be assisted by an injunction you should obtain legal advice.
In some cases peoples first port of call when experiencing harassment or molestation is to make a complaint to the police, as clearly it can fall into criminal conduct. A problem that a lot of perople experience is that the police don’t take them seriously or follow up on the matter or try to palm you away classing it as a “domestic” or a simple “family dispute”. If this does happen, or there is a stituation where unfortuntely due to a lack of evidence the police cant take a matter any further, don’t despair, help is out there. All you have to do is pick up the phone or call in at one of our offices.
Greg Cross is an experienced Family Solicitor specialising in Domestic Violence issues.