During these uncertain times the UK Government is advising that we self-isolate to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

More families will be at home together for an extended period of time and with no certainty of how long this pandemic will last there are concerns for men and women who suffer from domestic abuse being forced to stay at home. The increased pressure on families having to remain at home due to school closures, closure of places of work and limited access to retail and leisure facilities may cause aggravation within the home which could lead to an increase in domestic abuse.

The increased concern for domestic abuse victims has led Spain to implement measures to provide greater protection for victims who are forced to isolate during the pandemic. Spanish authorities have launched a campaign whereby women who are suffering from domestic violence can give an alert about their situation to pharmacies by using the code message “Mask-19”. The pharmacies can then contact the police to assist in providing the victim with support.

It is important that those who are subject to domestic abuse in this country know what they can do in order to stay safe.

Domestic abuse can take many forms and will usually follow a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour which may include physical violence, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual harassment and financial abuse.

If you are suffering from domestic abuse and believe you are in immediate danger you should contact the police.

You can also make an application to the court for an injunction order. Injunctions can be made urgently without providing notice to the abuser in circumstances where you are at immediate risk. The Courts currently remain open and they are working towards dealing with cases remotely in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are two types of injunctions available:

Non-molestation order

A non-molestation order prohibits the use of violence or threat of violence including harassment or physical molestation. It can also prohibit the use of communication both direct and indirect including by phone, email, text messages or social media and prevent the abuser from entering the home. The duration of a non-molestation order can be for a specific period of time or until a further order is made; this decision is at the discretion of the Court. When deciding whether to grant a non-molestation order the Court will consider all the circumstances and the importance of securing the health, safety and wellbeing of the victim and any relevant children. If the abuser breaches a non-molestation order they will be guilty of a criminal offence and the police can intervene.

Occupation order

An occupation order specifies who is allowed and who is not allowed in the family home and the surrounding area. The victim does not need to have a beneficial interest in the property in order to apply for an occupation order. When deciding whether to grant an occupation order the Court must consider the balance of harm test. The Court must weigh up on balance whether the victim and any relevant children are likely to suffer significant harm if an order is not made against the harm that would be suffered by the abuser if the order is made. The Court will also consider the housing needs and financial resources of the parties as well as the likely effect on the health, safety and wellbeing of the parties and any relevant children if an order is or is not made. A power of arrest can be attached to an occupation order. If the abuser breaches the order and there is no power of arrest attached, the victim can apply for a warrant for the arrest of the abuser or alternatively the victim can apply for a civil remedy by making an application for committal to prison.

In addition to the above, there are also a number of domestic abuse charities available who can offer help to victims who require support and advice.

If you are suffering from domestic abuse and require legal advice please contact one of our expert family law solicitors. Andrew Smith in our York office, Chris Burns or Sophie Arrowsmith in our Leeds office or Richard Buckley in our Sheffield office.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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