Domestic Violence and the Law
If you are in immediate danger, please call 999. You can also call the National Domestic Violence 24-hour helpline on freephone 0808 2000 247.
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In 1981, Theodore Johnson killed his first victim. His wife. He pushed her over the balcony of their ninth-floor flat after smacking her over the head with a vase. His second wife also met a grisly end; she was strangled with a belt after refusing to accept a box of chocolates from him.
Following a two-year stay in a secure psychiatric unit, Johnson was released and went on to kill his third wife.
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid and a former barrister, told the Guardian that Johnson showed reoccurring patterns of controlling behaviour with all his victims:
“…Johnson… had a controlling relationship with all three of the women he killed. He twice attempted suicide after the killings; most recently he threw himself under a train after he murdered Best, and lost an arm and a hand in the process. These attempts, according to Wilson, are further examples of controlling behaviour. “It’s about him continuing to try to construct a narrative to explain what he did. He is trying to maintain control of the narrative.”
Domestic violence is a life-threatening issue. According to recent femicide census, more than two-thirds of women killed by men were killed by a current or former partner. Two-thirds of the women killed in 2013 were killed in their own home or the home they shared with the perpetrator; 77% of women killed by a former partner were killed in the first year after separation.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic abuse is defined by Women’s Aid (a charity group which fights for women and children subject to abuse) as “an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.”
Men can also be the victim of domestic violence. According to ManKind, a support organisation for male victims of domestic abuse, for every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male and 13.6% of men stated they had been victims of domestic violence in 2015/16.
Domestic abuse can involve some or all the following:
- coercive control – this is a pattern of behaviour which includes isolating the victim, criticising them, refusing them access to money and threatening physical violence)
- physical violence
- sexual abuse and rape
- financial abuse
- harassment and stalking
- online abuse
Most victims suffer from multiple types of abuse and abusers tend to start off exerting coercive control over the victim before progressing to physical and/or sexual violence.
What legal options are available for victims of domestic violence?
The two main protections for domestic violence victims and their children are non-molestation orders and occupation orders.
A non-molestation order confers protection on family members, including children or people in a domestic relationship, against the use of violence or other forms of molestation by a person with whom they are associated. There are eight classes of applicants who are associated persons, including married or divorced couples, civil partners and engaged or formerly engaged couples.
To apply for a non-molestation order, you need to complete form FL401 and make two copies. You must also include a witness statement which explains what has happened to you and why you need a non-molestation order to be made. The witness statement should be completed with the following statement; “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true”, and then signed and dated.
Non-molestation orders can be applied for either ex-parte or on-notice. Ex-parte means making the application without the affected party’s knowledge and is mainly used in cases where the applicant is in immediate danger. However, it will not become active until it is officially served upon the respondent.
When considering an application for a non-molestation order, the court will consider all aspects of the case, including the safety and well-being of any children involved.
Breaching any term of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence.
An occupation order is an order primarily determining a right to occupy a property. The court may declare, confer or regulate occupation rights in the family home between family members or those involved in a domestic relationship. Occupation orders usually last for 6-12 months, but can be renewed.
Occupation orders can state:
- who may live in the property
- if someone is excluded from entering the property even if they have a legal right to live there
- who will pay the mortgage/rent and other bills in relation to the property
- if both parties stay in the property, it can set out which areas of the house each one is to occupy
Excluding a person from residing in a home they legally own is seen as a draconian measure, therefore, an occupation order will only be issued as a last resort. However, like a non-molestation order, an occupation order can be applied for ex-parte.
Getting legal advice and support
It is imperative to get the best advice from an experienced London family solicitor if you are applying for a non-molestation order or an occupation order. This is especially the case if you are applying ex-parte, as the court will need to see strong evidence that such an order is required to be granted without giving the respondent an opportunity to present their case.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration and family law firms in London and is highly recommended by the Legal 500. By making an appointment with one of our Family Solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.