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What should you do if you have been a victim of domestic abuse?

What should you do if you have been a victim of domestic abuse?  Firstly, ring and report the incident to the police.  They may be able to arrest the perpetrator and charge them, or give them a caution or a PIN (police information notice). 

If there is a conviction, the criminal courts can make a restraining order to protect the victim for either a defined period of time, or indefinitely.  A restraining order is only made by the criminal courts in the course of criminal proceedings.  It cannot be made by civil court.  A breach of a restraining order is itself a criminal offence.

What should you do if there is no police involvement?  You may be able to obtain an injunction.

An injunction is a civil court order.  There are two types of injunctions, a non molestation order and an occupation order.  Each order operates differently and has different consequences.

A non molestation order is an order which is used to protect both the victim and any children of the family from any abuse, physical, emotional, psychological or coercive control.  It can include an order that the perpetrator must not be abusive to the victim or the children, or ask anyone else to be abusive, not to communicate to the victim, and in some cases the perpetrator can be excluded from a specific area, such as near the children’s school or where the victim is currently living.  The court has to be satisfied that a protective order is required.

An occupation order is an order which regulates the occupation of a family home.  It could be that the perpetrator could be excluded from a house, or certain parts of the house.  The court has to be satisfied whether on balance it is better to make an order, or whether more harm will be caused if an order is made.  This is known as the balance of harm test.

How do you get an injunction?  You can in certain circumstances, make an application to the court for an injunction without the other party being aware of what you are doing.  This is known as “without notice”.  You can do this if you believe that you are at risk of further harm if the perpetrator was made aware of the fact that you were applying to court.  If an order is made without notice, once made, it must be personally served on the perpetrator so that they are aware of the order.  There is then a further hearing where the perpetrator can argue their case before the court.

Once a non molestation order is made, if there are any breaches, this is a criminal offence.  You would report the breach to the police, and they would deal with the breach.

A breach of an occupation order is not a criminal offence.  If there is a breach, a further application is made to the court to deal with it.  A breach of a court order is a contempt of court, and can be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine.

Legal aid is usually available to help someone make an application for an injunction.   It is generally not available if you are the party who is responding to the application for the injunction.

If you require an injunction or you have been served with court paperwork for an injunction, you should get legal advice.

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