What is Domestic Abuse?
The government defines domestic abuse as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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 sexuality. The abuse can include, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional”.
What existing protective orders are already in place to protect victims of domestic abuse?
There are currently two orders that domestic abuse victims can apply for in the Family Court: Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders. A Non-Molestation Order protects the victim (and potentially any relevant children) from harm; and an occupation order regulates the occupation of the family home. The court also has powers to oust the perpetrator from the family home. Please see our Domestic Abuse and Legal Options blog for further details.
Another avenue which a victim of domestic abuse can seek protection is via the criminal courts and they can apply for a Restraining Order and / or DVPO (Domestic Violence Protection Order).
There are, however, currently no protective orders in place that are accessible across the criminal, family and civil courts.
What are the new protective orders and notices?
The Act introduces a new civil Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) which will provide immediate protection to victims of domestic abuse following a domestic abuse incident and a new civil Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO).
It was confirmed earlier this week that new court-imposed orders and notices will be piloted to protect victims of domestic abuse in Gwent, Greater Manchester and the London boroughs of Croydon, Bromley and Sutton.
- Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) – this is similar to the current Domestic Violence Protection Notice. The DAPN will give victims of domestic abuse immediate protection following an incident and will be issued by the police. A DAPN could require a perpetrator to leave the victim’s home for up to 48 hours.
- Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO) – provides flexible, longer-term protection for victims. These orders can be applied for in two ways:
- The police can make an application for a DAPO to the magistrate’s court
- The victim and specified third parties can apply for a DAPO to the family court
Criminal, family and civil courts may also be able to use their powers to make a DAPO during existing court proceedings which do not have to be domestic-abuse related.
Victims of domestic abuse will be able to apply for a DAPO in both the criminal and civil courts. If the DAPO is breached, this will be a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
Practically, what Domestic Abuse Protection Orders can be made?
DAPOs will be able to impose prohibitions and positive requirements on perpetrators of domestic abuse such as:
- Requiring perpetrators to attend behaviour change programmes;
- Undergo electronic monitoring;
- Prohibiting the perpetrator from coming within a specified distance of the victim’s home, workplace and / or any other specified premises (which is similar to the current Non-Molestation Orders);
- Requiring perpetrators to attend an alcohol or substance misuse programme or mental health assessment.
The above list is not exhaustive. The DAPOs will also include notification requirements meaning that perpetrators will need to notify the police of any name and address changes.
These civil orders form part of a number of measures announced by the government to protect victims of domestic abuse. These changes in the law have been made so as to ensure that the most dangerous domestic abusers will be watched more closely and send a clear message that controlling and / or coercive behaviour will be put on a par with physical violence.
Going forward, the Home Office will work with the police to develop a risk assessment tool which will assist the police forces in quickly identifying domestic abusers that are most likely to commit the greatest harm.
The Home Office have not yet made a decision as to when the pilots will start, nor how long they will run for, however, many see these new civil orders as a positive step in protecting complainants of domestic abuse.
The team at Maguire Family Law are dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse obtain the legal protection that they need and to offer support along the way as well as signposting victims to organisations that can help (Refuge National Help Line: 0808 2000 247).