The legal system provides a variety of measures to protect survivors of domestic violence from further abuse, including the threat of more violence, so they can live a safe life.
One route open to victims is to seek what is informally called an emergency injunction. Granted by a civil court, they are usually issued without the perpetrator knowing about it until they are served with the order. The most common types are outlined below.
These are designed to stop someone from pestering, attacking, threatening physical violence, intimidating or harassing their victim and/or children. Photos of any injuries or damage to property will strengthen the applicant’s case.
Each order is unique with the judge taking the applicant’s individual circumstances into account, such as their physical well-being and if there are children involved.
These orders can include the court prohibiting the perpetrator from communicating with their (ex-)partner, or instructing or encouraging others to attack, threaten or intimidate the victim.
The orders are typically granted for six to 12 months and breaching them is an arrestable offence.
But in the case of emergency non-molestation orders, they are granted for 28 days and then go back to court to give the abuser the opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations.
Prohibited steps orders apply when the abuser threatens to take the children away from their victim’s care and control.
The orders will only be issued if the judge views it is in the best interests of the children for their overall welfare. Some contact between the perpetrator and children can continue if the judge regards that as reasonable in the circumstances.
There is no power of arrest attached to prohibited steps orders, but they are enforceable through the county court as contempt of court.
All these orders have to be served on the abuser – in court, or in person at some later time – for them to be enforceable. A copy of the order has to be given to the local police station so officers are aware it exists. A copy of the prohibited steps orders may need to be given to the children’s school(s) to ensure that the youngsters cannot be removed without the victim’s permission.
The orders can generally be applied to most forms of relationship: intimidate partners, ex-partners, couples who have had children and family relations, including in-laws.
Another safeguard for victims is a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) which police can serve on an alleged abuser who they view as posing a continuing risk of violence to their (ex-)partner. A police officer has to give the written notice to a perpetrator by hand.
A DVPN lasts for 48 hours and requires the abusive partner to leave the premises and not contact the victim.
They can be extended by up to 28 days by magistrates, who issue a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO). Survivors can use that time to consider their options and seek further support.