Non-Molestation Order

Non-molestation Order

One of the strongest ways you can protect yourself against domestic abuse is by taking out a non-molestation order against your abuser.

They are one type of an injunction, a term used to describe any court order served on someone forbidding specified behaviour, such as threatening you, or limiting their actions, like visiting your home.

A non-molestation order is typically issued to prohibit an abuser from using or threatening physical violence, intimidating, harassing, pestering or communicating with you. An order could prevent the abuser coming within a certain distance of you, your home address or even attending your place of work. It could also include your children in certain circumstances. An order will also prevent an abuser from instructing or encouraging others to do any of those actions.

A non-molestation order can protect you against behaviour that by itself may not be a criminal offence or in situations where the police have responded to a 999 call but then taken the view that there is insufficient evidence to charge your abuser with a criminal offence such as assault. If you have a non-molestation order in place, then the police can arrest your abuser for the offence of breaching that order.

To make an application for a non-molestation order, you and your abuser must have “association” under the Family Law Act 1996. This includes those who are or were: married, civil partners, living together or partners. It also includes relatives and in-laws along with those who have a child together.

When deciding if to grant an order, the court will consider all your circumstances, primarily the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of you and any children. Evidence of abusive text messages/emails along with photos of any injuries or damage to property will strengthen your case.

It is possible to make an emergency application for a non-molestation order if the incident has happened recently, as a guideline, within the past week unless there is a good reason for any delay.  If an order is granted without notice, 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.

A non-molestation order is usually granted for six to 12 months, although in certain circumstances, it could be granted for a longer period. An order can also be extended.

A non-molestation order does not need a power of arrest as it is a specific criminal offence to breach it.

Enforcement

Should your abuser breach the order you can enforce it by either reporting him/her to the police to start criminal proceedings, or begin civil proceedings by applying (usually with a solicitor’s help) to the family court which made the order, for the respondent to be arrested and/or punished

The maximum sentence through criminal courts is five years’ imprisonment and a fine; via the family court it is imprisonment of up to two years, a suspended sentence or fines.

Advantage

As survivors have told the NCDV, the mere existence of a non-molestation order or other type of injunction can have a dramatic effect on an abuser’s behaviour. They will realise others are involved and there will be serious consequences if the abuse continues.

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.”