The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for everyone, however the family team at Foort Tayler have been observing the alarming rise in the number of reported incidents of Domestic abuse that staying at home has brought. Below, we set out how we can help those victims through the process of escaping such abuse.
Unfortunately, domestic abuse is very common and it is reported that each year nearly 2 million people in the UK suffer it in some form. Of those reported incidents,1.3 million are female victims (8.2% of the population) and 600,000 are male victims (4%). Domestic Abuse Charities have seen calls made to them almost double in the last few weeks. Social distancing rules have led to victims having to spend significantly increased periods of time in close proximity to their abusers, away from the support and respite that they would otherwise have access to at work or school, or from friends and family.
Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include, but is not limited to:
- coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
- economic abuse
- online abuse
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S POSITION ON LEAVING YOUR HOME IF YOU ARE SUFFERING DOMESTIC ABUSE?
For those suffering abuse whilst isolating at home with an abuser, the key message from the government is that this is never acceptable and if you are at risk, you can leave your home to find a place of safety. This could be with friends, family, a hotel or a refuge.
WHO IS AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT ME?
If you are in immediate danger and you are unable to leave your home due to your abuser, then the police continue to operate. These crimes should be reported by calling 999 in an emergency, or 101 in other circumstances. Reports to 101 can also be made online. If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, dial 999, listen to the questions from the operator, and respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. Then follow the instructions depending on whether you are calling from a mobile or a landline.
If you call from a mobile – 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 you call 999 from a landline – 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.
There are a number of Domestic Abuse Charities operating at this time. They are all experiencing a significant rise in calls, but they are there to help you.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE: this line is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. They offer free advice, in confidence, and can be contacted on 0808 2000 247. Their website also provides guidance and support for potential victims.
WOMEN’S AID: provides a large amount of support and information online:- www.womensaid.org.uk
SIGNHEALTH: provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL). They can be contacted through WhatsApp or Facetime: 07970 350366, by Telephone: 020 3947 2601 or by email
WHAT CAN FOORT TAYLER SOLICITORS DO TO HELP ME?
The family team at Foort Tayler can provide full advice and explain the options available to you clearly, based upon your situation. We will do this for free within an over the phone 30-minute consultation. You may also be entitled to Legal Aid to make an appropriate application (please see below); we will take you through the means and merit tests during our call to see whether you would qualify for this assistance.
The family team can assist you in applying to the Court for a Non-Molestation and/or an Occupation Order for your protection.
A Non-molestation Order is a civil order obtained by a victim of domestic abuse from a Judge, through the Family Court. The term molestation has a wide interpretation. It can include – but is not limited to – physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse, and it can also cover coercive and controlling behaviour, intimidating behaviour, and harassment. The abuse can be once, or over a sustained period of time. A victim can apply for a Non-Molestation Order against someone described as an ‘associated person’. Associated persons can be spouses, ex-spouses, civil partners, ex-civil partners, cohabitees, and former cohabitees; it can also include various family members. Once an Order is in place, the Respondent (the perpetrator – the associated person/s) will be prohibited from causing abuse towards the victim. If they breach the Order there is a power of arrest attached, so they will be arrested and could face up to five years in imprisonment and/or a fine. An application for a Non-Molestation Order can be made quickly to the Court and it is common that we will not need to provide notice to the Respondent when we make the initial application. This will allow the Court time to consider it, and decide whether you need the protection of the Order, before the Respondent is made aware.
An Occupation Order has very large scope, but in summary it allows the Court to decide who should live, or not live, in the home or any part of it. The Order can also exclude the offending person from an area around the home.
The current Court Guidance is, for the time being, adopting a default position whereby all Family Court hearings should be undertaken remotely, using telephone conferences or an electronic communications platform. With the Courts able to operate remotely during the lockdown period, they are prioritising urgent cases such as matters involving children, Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders, with hearings taking place via electronic platforms such as Skype, Zoom and BT MeetMe. The Court Service therefore remains accessible where there is an urgent need, which is of paramount importance.