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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.