The family team at Lupton Fawcett understands the difficulty of coming forward and reporting domestic violence. Our solicitors are on hand to provide sympathetic and confidential legal advice to victims of all kinds of domestic violence and abuse.
What is Domestic Abuse?
The broad definition of domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but it not limited to:
- Actual and threatened physical harm
- Psychological bullying
- Sexual harassment
- Financial turmoil
- Emotional abuse
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance, escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.
The empathetic, experienced team at Lupton Fawcett can help you find a resolution for your situation. We handle all cases in the strictest confidence, and our expert domestic violence solicitors will guide you through how we can help your personal safety and wellbeing.
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.
How to Protect Yourself from an Abuser
Be practical. It is always important to think about what steps you can take to protect yourself instead of, or in addition to, applying for an injunction from the court. These might include:
- Contacting the police
- Letting neighbours know that there is a problem so they will call the police if anything happens
- Changing the locks to your home and changing your mobile number
- Moving out, if necessary, either for a short time or permanently (although this is obviously something one does with reluctance)
- Instruct one of our specialist solicitors to write a warning letter to the abusive party or in more serious cases to make an application to court for an injunction order
Types of Injunction Orders
There are two basic injunction orders the court can make:
- A non-molestation order – this prohibits the use or threat of harassment including violence and molestation. It can also include terms preventing the abuser from contacting you.
- An occupation order – this defines who can live in what parts of the house or exclude someone from the house altogether, even if the house is in both names.
In certain circumstances, rather than make an order, the court may accept an undertaking.
What is an Undertaking?
An undertaking is a promise made to the court by the other party that they will not behave in an abusive way. In broad terms, it is as enforceable as if it were an order of the court. Depending on the seriousness of the allegations made, the court may not accept an undertaking from an abusive party and may make an injunction order instead.
It is important to be aware that the breach of an undertaking is not a criminal offence. Breach is a serious matter and an application can be made to commit the other party to prison using the committal procedure.
An undertaking can may be appropriate perhaps in circumstances where family members are involved and the person making the application believes that this will bring an end to the matter without an order being made against the other party or the need for a full hearing.
Applying for an Injunction Order
Once public or other funding is available, the first stage will be to prepare all the necessary papers, including a statement setting out the reasons why you want to the court to grant you the orders you seek.
The proceedings are then issued in court. If the case is particularly urgent, the court will arrange for an immediate hearing before a judge. This is called a ‘without notice’ hearing as other party will not be there.
The papers, including any ‘without notice’ order made, are then served on the other party setting out when the matter is next in court. Service is normally carried out by a process server who will personally hand the papers to the other party.
On the next occasion, it may be possible to bring the case to an end with suitable orders being made or undertakings being given. If not, the court will decide the way in which the case is to proceed and what injunction order, if any, there should be in the meantime.
After the filing of any further evidence, the matter will come back to court for the final hearing when a judge will decide what final orders are made, including any orders about costs.
NOTE: Any injunction will be expressed to last for a particular length of time – it will not go on forever.
Breaking an Injunction Order
There are various possibilities about what may happen if an injunction is broken (breached), depending upon which type of order is in place.
Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence so the quickest way forward is to contact the police and for them to take action. Alternatively, an application can be made to the court for it to enforce its own order. This will involve a further statement being prepared setting out the ways in which it is said that the order has been broken. This will then be served upon the other party with a notice to show cause why an order for committal to prison should not be made. There will then be a hearing, known as a committal hearing, to decide whether the other party should be sent to prison.
When an occupation order is breached, it is not automatically a criminal offence. The most appropriate action is to follow the committal procedure referred to above. However, if criminal offences have also been committed, the police are again the appropriate people to deal with the matter.
Contact Us for Help
We are here to provide specialist advice and support should you be a victim of domestic abuse. We have helped many people around Yorkshire from our offices in Leeds, York and Sheffield. To speak to a solicitor, use the details on the enquiry form.