Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

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.

Non-Molestation Order

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.

In some circumstances, it can also include a clause preventing the abuser from coming within a certain distance of your home

The orders are typically granted for six to 12 months and breaching them is an arrestable offence.

If an order is granted without notice on an emergency basis, then there is a further hearing approximately 14 days later, to give your abuser the opportunity to tell the Court whether they oppose the order.

Occupation Order

Occupation orders specify who can live in the family home, and can mean eviction of the abuser, banning them from visiting the family home or coming within a certain distance of it.
Courts usually grant them for six to 12 months, and a power of arrest can be attached to an occupation order in certain circumstances.

Prohibited Steps Order

This order can prohibit someone with parental responsibility (under the Childrens Act 1989) for your child(ren) from taking them away from your care and control.

This order is particularly appropriate when the person threatening to take away your child(ren) is ordinarily allowed to look after them.

You must have parental responsibility for your child/children in order to apply for a prohibited steps order.

You can apply for one on an emergency basis (without notice) if, within the last 7 days, the Respondent has taken your child (even if they eventually returned the child to you), attempted to take your child or threatened to take your child.

The Court will grant a prohibited steps order if it considers that order to be in the best interests of your child. It may consider a child arrangement order to be more appropriate.

Enforcement

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 non-molestation 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. A non-molestation order will need to be given to the landlord or mortgage company.

The orders can generally be applied to most forms of relationship: intimate partners, ex-partners, couples who have had children and family relations, including in-laws.

Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN)

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.

Restraining Order

This is the criminal court equivalent of a non molestation order to protect an abused person from violence, the threat or fear or violence or harassment.

It is only imposed at the end of the criminal proceedings but can be imposed even if a defendant has been found not guilty of an offence if the Court believes the order is necessary to protect another from harassment. 

The order can be for a specified period or until further notice.

Breach of a Restraining order is a criminal offence and carries the same penalties as breach of a non molestation order.

Protection Orders

By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

“Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”