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Are you suffering from Domestic Violence or Abuse?

Where to get help

  • If you are in danger or have been the victim of a crime, call the police. In an emergency, dial 999.
  • In the Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire area, you can call the support line run by local domestic abuse victims’ charity Next Link on 0117-925-0680. It is open Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.. [We are advised that the charity Survive, formerly linked from this page, closed in May 2018.]
  • At any time, you can call the freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808-2000-247. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is jointly run by the national charities Women’s Aid and Refuge.
  • If you need to move to a safe house where the perpetrator cannot find you, you can apply to stay in a women’s refuge. These are secret residential addresses shared by victims and staffed by a support worker. For example, seven refuges are managed by Next Link in Bristol. Others are run by Refuge. Culturally specific refuges may be available for those from particular cultural backgrounds who desire this.
  • Join a group for sufferers and survivors. Here you can share experiences and get support from other victims of domestic abuse. In addition to local groups, there are anonymous forums for discussion such as the Survivors’ Forum offered by the charity Women’s Aid.
  • Search for local help services in the Domestic Abuse Directory hosted by Women’s Aid.
  • Get help from Community Outreach Workers such as those associated with Refuge. They will visit women in their homes and help with all manner of advice and practical support to improve their safety, independence, self-confidence and economic situations.
  • Contact an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate. These professionals (often known as IDVAs) work to address the safety of victims at high risk of violence from current or former partners. Their work includes:
    • Assessing the risk level faced by the client;
    • Discussing with the client available options to improve her safety;
    • Developing agreed plans to improve the client’s safety
    • Advising and helping with practicalities such as changing locks; moving into refuges; obtaining other housing; solving financial problems; and contact arrangements with children
    • Advising on legal proceedings to which perpetrators may be subject, such as charges, bail conditions, trials, and victim personal statements.

Guide to Domestic Violence law

What are Domestic Violence and Abuse?

  • The home office definition of domestic violence and abuse is: “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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 sexual orientation” and encompasses psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional forms of abuse.
  • In 2014-15, 92.4% of alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse subject to court proceedings over this behaviour were male
  • Since 2010-11, on average 84% of victims have been female. The choice to use the third-person pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ in the remainder of this document reflects this statistic, but does not implicitly exclude the 16% of male victims.

 

Right to Ask for Police Records

  • Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, since March 2014, anyone in an intimate relationship has had the right to ask the police whether or not her partner has committed violent offences in the past. The police will disclose past offences if it believes after discussing with other safeguarding agencies that it is lawful, proportionate and necessary to do so.
  • Between March and December 2014, 4724 applications were made to police in England and Wales under this scheme, with 1938 disclosures being granted.

 

Right to Know

  • When the police receives third-party information indicating that a person in an intimate relationship may be at risk from her partner, the person concerned may be deemed to have the right to know about the possible risks to her safety. As with the Right to Ask, it will only disclose information if it deems after discussing with other safeguarding agencies that a disclosure is lawful, proportionate and necessary.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

  • Since March 2014, the police have been empowered to impose emergency Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) on perpetrators of domestic violence incidents immediately after they occur.
  • DVPNs have the power to evict perpetrators of domestic violence, and to bar them from further molesting their victims.
  • The police will impose DVPNs in cases where they feel the victim would remain at risk of domestic violence.
  • DVPNs require authorisation by a police officer ranked at superintendent or higher level.
  • The police must apply to a magistrates’ court within 48 hours (discounting Sundays and bank holidays) of serving a DVPN on a perpetrator, in order for it to be upgraded to a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO).
  • The DVPN will remain in force until the court has reached its verdict.
  • DVPOs, where awarded, ban perpetrators from returning to victims’ places of residence or otherwise making contact with them for 14 to 28 days. They also for this duration if they had been living with victims.
  • DVPOs are commonly imposed when there insufficient evidence to charge a perpetrator, to buy time in the interest of the victim’s safety.
  • A perpetrator who breaches a DVPO may be sentenced to up to two months in prison or fined up to £5,000.
  • Between March and December 2014, 3,337 DVPNs were issued in England and Wales, with 3072 DVPOs being granted by magistrates.

Which Laws Cover Domestic Violence and Abuse?

  • Threats to kill are covered by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, section 16.
  • Serious forms of violence and attempted violence against the person are covered by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, Sections 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 29 and 47
  • Common assault and battery are covered by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, Section 39.
  • Indecent assault is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 1956, Sections 14 and 15
  • Sexual assault is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, sections 2, 3 and 4.
  • Rape is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 1956, Section 1; and the Sexual Offences Act 2003, section 1
  • Procurement of a woman by threats is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 1956, section 2
  • Administering drugs to obtain or facilitate intercourse is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 1956, Section 4.
  • Administering a substance with intent to commit a sexual offence is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 62.
  • Procuring a miscarriage is covered by the Abortion Act 1967, Section 5 (2)
  • Blackmail is covered by the Theft Act 1968, Section 21.
  • Destruction or damage to property is covered by the Criminal Damage Act 1971, Section 1; and threats to carry it out by Section 2.
  • The use of violence to secure entry to a building or room is covered by the Criminal Law Act 1977, Section 6.
  • The abduction of children by their parents is covered by the Child Abduction Act 1984, Section 1.
  • Sending letters with intent to cause distress or anxiety is covered by the Malicious Communications Act 1988, Section 1
  • Affray, the fear or provocation of violence, harassment, and the causing of alarm and distress are covered by the Public Order Act 1986, sections 3, 4, 4A and 5.
  • Harassment and stalking outside the context of intimate relationships is covered by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, sections 2, 2A, and 4
  • Putting people in fear of violence is covered by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, sections 4 and (where it is a facet of stalking) 4A.
  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, sections 57-9.
  • Causing, inciting or controlling prostitution for gain is covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, sections 52-3.
  • Forced marriage is covered by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Section 10.
  • Disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress is covered by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, Section 33.
  • Kidnapping and false imprisonment are offences under common law.

What Law Covers Controlling and Coercive Behaviour?

  • Under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships was introduced, with a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
  • The legislation was supplemented by a Statutory Guidance Framework of December 2015 relating to the application of the offence.
  • The following conditions must apply for the offence to take effect:
    • The victim and perpetrator must be either in an intimate personal relationship, or living together as family members, or living together having previously been in an intimate personal relationship, at the time of the behaviour.
    • Either the victim must have been caused by the behaviour to fear that violence will be used against her / him on at least two occasions, or the behaviour must have had a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on the victim’s daily activities.
    • The behaviour must occur repeatedly or
    • The behaviour must be of such a nature that the perpetrator ought to know[1] that it will seriously affect the victim.
  • Controlling behaviour is defined as ‘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 and escape, and regulating their everyday behaviour’.
  • Coercive behaviour is defined as ‘a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten’ the victim.
  • The law does not apply if the victim is a child aged under 16 and the perpetrator is someone aged 16 or over who is in a position of responsibility for the child. Such cases are already dealt by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Section 1.

Civil Remedies – the Family Court

In the event that the police are unable to provide you with the necessary protection, you should immediately contact a specialist family solicitor, who will advise you of the options available to ensure your safety and well-being.

Very often, you will be advised to apply to the court for a non-molestation order under part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 to protect you from the perpetrator of the violence / abuse. Subject to the circumstances of your case, the court may also order that the perpetrator is excluded from the family home.

 

[1] ‘Ought to know’ is predicated on the assumption of what a reasonable person would know

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