The term ‘domestic abuse’ covers cases of personal violence, threats, intimidation and harassment.
In situations of domestic abuse, there may be police involvement and proceedings in the criminal courts dealing with the offence. However, if the criminal courts cannot offer protection (via bail conditions, for example), the civil courts can also act very quickly to do so. The priority is to ensure everyone’s safety including any children involved.
We have experience of making applications to the civil court for the necessary orders, which usually fall into two main categories:
- ‘Non-molestation Orders – which protects the applicant and children and covers not only to physical molestation, but also any type of violence, threats of violence, harassment or pestering. When considering making such an order, the court must look at all the circumstances, including the health, safety and well-being of the applicant and any child.
- ‘Occupation Orders’ – which exclude the other party from occupation of the home or certain areas in it and, if necessary, can include the surrounding area around the property. These are draconian orders and are therefore not made lightly. The court must look at all the circumstances, including the access to housing of both parties and the children. If, on balance, the court believes the applicant or a child is likely to suffer more harm if the order is not made than the person to be excluded would suffer if the order was made, then the court must make the order sought.
In very urgent situations, such orders can be applied for without any notice being given to the other person. They will then be given the opportunity to attend court to put their case a few days later.
If the case is less urgent then it is usual to try to reach an agreement with the other person if possible and this can often be done by the giving of undertakings (solemn and binding promises to the court) to regulate behaviour.
If an order or undertaking is breached, the consequences can be imprisonment.
Domestic abuse is a very serious issue which often requires the matter to be dealt with sensitively and quickly. We have considerable experience of dealing with these cases in this way.