When you are experiencing domestic abuse, it may feel like you have nowhere to turn and that you are all alone. Although it may feel this way, this is not the case.

Whether it the police, your local lawyer or a trusted friend or family member, there is support on hand to assist you through this challenging time.

Here we will look at how the police can help as well covering how we as legal experts can assist and guide you through the difficulties of escaping domestic abuse.

How Can the Police Help You – what is the procedure?

Domestic abuse is a crime under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Domestic Abuse ranges in severity (as do the punishments if proven) but whatever the level it is always wrong, and incidents should be recorded as they occur.

Whether it is in the form of a diary entry that you may refer to later, or directly with the police at the time of the incident, it is important that all incidents of any abuse suffered are recorded.

In an emergency or if you feel you are in immediate danger, you should call 999. The police will initially want to ensure that you or any child or children are safe and can provide medical care if needed.

The police officer will ask you what has happened and will take an initial account of what you say. There’s likely to be a follow up meeting with a specialist officer to provide more information about the allegation. If there is a risk of further violence, the police officer will do what they can to remove the risk, which could mean asking the suspect to temporarily leave the home or arresting them.

The police officer should discuss with you whether you need to obtain an injunction, an order from the family court and will advise that you contact a Family Lawyer to prevent the suspect approaching you or entering the home. You may wish to consider speaking to a Family Lawyer at this stage as this is not something the police will do. These injunctions are called ‘non-molestation orders’ and ‘occupation orders’.

  • A non-molestation order prohibits the suspect from molesting you or any relevant children, as long as you are both ‘associated’ with one another. For example, you are associated if you have or have had an intimate personal relationship of significant duration. A non-molestation order can also prohibit the suspect from contacting you or attempting to contact you, including via telephone text, email or otherwise.
  • An occupation order gives you the right to live in the home and can exclude the suspect from entering the home and the area around it. An occupation order can also deal with who pays the rent or mortgage.

The police officer should also discuss with you whether you need counselling or support and whether you would benefit from seeking advice from a domestic abuse charity and Family Lawyer who can guide you through subsequent injunction proceedings, divorce, children disputes and/or the division of family assets.

Before the police leave, you should be provided with a dedicated telephone number. You can use this number to call the officer directly to find out how the investigation is going or to talk about something that may be worrying you. The police officer should aim to contact you again within 24 hours of you reporting the offence and update you on what is happening.

The Investigation

You will need to provide a detailed statement of the history and incident that the police have attended. Thereafter the police have a duty to investigate your matter. However, the investigation does not have a timescale and it can take many months for this to take place. However, if the Police feel you are in immediate danger, they can contact the accused and ask them to visit the police station voluntarily. If they do not, they are likely to arrest the accused and carry out an interview.

The accused has a right to a “no comment” interview under caution. They can be held for 24 hours. Most interviews rarely exceed this, but the police can seek to hold an accused for up to 72 hours.

It is common in domestic abuse cases for an accused to be released on bail which would include (but not limited to):

  • non-contact with the victim in any way.
  • exclusion from property and certain areas (usually 100 yards from the victim’s home).

These bail conditions can however fall away at any time if the police decide not to prosecute. It is therefore sensible to consider having in place a Family Court injunction order referred to above to continue to provide the protection you need for a period up to 12 months.

Once the investigation is complete the case is put to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will decide (depending on what evidence is produced by the police) whether to charge an accused or not. Common Charges are:

  • Assault by beating
  • Assault bodily harm (ABH)
  • Grievous bodily harm (GBH)
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour

If an accused is convicted the maximum sentence for assault is 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine. The maximum sentence for GBH is life imprisonment and/or a fine. The maximum sentence for controlling and coercive behaviour is 5 years and/or a fine.

If convicted the Court can also impose limited or indefinite “restraining” orders.

If there are no charges the case will be closed. Information about the incident will be kept on record by the police however, and they may seek the option of cautioning rather seek charges, but this very much depends on what has happened.

Note: It is possible to ask the CPS for written reasons why charges have not been brought against a perpetrator which may help a victim understand the reasoning as often they find themselves in the dark in this respect.

Can the Police issue an 'Harassment Order'?

If you are suffering a regular pattern of harassment, you can report this to the police and produce a clear and concise note of all incidents. A warning can be given by the Police for this to the perpetrator which, if true and repeated, would amount to an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Will I Need to Go to Court?

As with the criminal court, you will need to attend a Family Court. However, the experiences are very different, and the family court is far less formal than a criminal court.

A Family Lawyer will assist and deal with all the necessary paperwork and will also attend Court with you for support.

It is also important to note that the way the Family and Criminal Courts deal with these matters are very different. Criminal Courts are beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas in a Family Court it is on the balance of probabilities.

How Can a Family Lawyer Help You

We do however understand that for many this step is easier said than done, and involving the police can seem daunting and the thought of repercussions and potential criminal proceedings which will involve you as a witness will often prevent a victim from taking matters further.

If this is the case and contacting the police feels like too big of a step, at least initially, then you may wish to contact your local Family lawyer to discuss your situation and discuss obtaining protection via the Family Court.

A highly trained legal professional will be able to advise you on your legal position, housing/living arrangements, and finances, as well as providing contacts to emotional support groups and details of other organisations who can assist with safe housing and counselling etc.

Many law firms will offer a FREE initial consultation which will give you the opportunity to speak with a highly experienced legal expert (either over the phone, via Zoom or in person) so you can find out what your options are and how you can move forwards and leave behind the abuse you are experiencing.

We Are Here to Help

At Parfitt Cresswell we know that dealing with something as emotional as family law can cause great stress and at times overwhelm, particularly when it comes to matters such as domestic abuse. Cases involving domestic abuse can be highly emotive and require particularly sensitive handling. We can assist in taking steps to obtain a Non-Molestation Order and/or an Occupation Order as required. Contact us today for more information.

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