The impact of the Coronavirus on Protective InjunctionsPepperells
As a result of the social distancing measures implemented by the Government in response to the Coronavirus, many individuals will find themselves confined to their homes for larger periods of time.
On 31st March 2020, the BBC reported that the Domestic Abuse Commission for England and Wales acknowledged that in the UK alone, calls to the national abuse hotline have risen by 65% since the implementation of the social distancing restrictions.
Here at Pepperells Solicitors we recognise that this creates significant challenges to those at risk of Domestic Abuse.
What Orders are available?
Firstly, Non-Molestation Orders are available under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996. Such orders prohibit an individual from molesting a person associated with them or any relevant child.
The term ‘molesting’ has been interpreted widely by Justice Brown in C v C (Non-Molestation Order: Jurisdiction) 1998 as ‘some conduct which clearly harasses and affects the applicant to such a degree that the intervention of the court is called for.’
A non-molestation order operates to prohibit various forms of abusive conduct such as financial, emotional, sexual, psychological and physical.
Any breach of a non-molestation order, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence.
If you are at significant risk of harm, you can apply for this order on an ex-parte basis. This means that you can apply without notifying the respondent. The respondent will only be notified once the protective order is already in place, if your case is successful. For your piece of mind, we can also notify the police of the existence of any order in place.
Secondly, Occupation Orders are available under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996. These orders aim to regulate who an occupy a dwelling house or part of a dwelling house. This can involve the removal of an occupant from a dwelling house for an initial period of time not exceeding 6 months.
Applying for an occupation order requires two questions to be considered. Firstly, what is the existing relationship between the applicant and the respondent? Secondly, does the applicant have an existing right to occupy? Our team will require the answer to determine whether you can apply for an occupation order, and if so, under what section.
The court will consider whether the applicant or child are likely to suffer significant harm is an order is not made. If the court believe this to be the case, the court will ask whether the harm suffered by the respondent would be greater. If not, then an order can be made.
The court may also consider a list of discretionary factors such as the housing needs and financial resources of the parties involved.
These orders may also be applied for on an ex-parte basis as discussed above.
Any breach of an occupation order is not a criminal offence, but civil proceedings can be brought for contempt of court.
How will the coronavirus affect my application?
Here at Pepperells Solicitors it is business as usual. Our team are working remotely but remain on hand to support and act for you during this difficult time.
We can arrange an audio or video call through systems such as Microsoft Teams in order to provide you with the information and support you require and discuss your options. Alternatively, you can contact us via telephone, and you will be directed to one of our experts to deal with your matter.
If you decide to proceed with an application for one of the above orders, the Court will require a statement from you setting out what has happened and why you need protection. This can involve discussing sensitive and often distressing information. Here at Pepperells, we recognise that this may not be an easy task and reassure you that all discussions are completely confidential.
Pepperells are also accredited with the FLOWS project who have developed a digital platform called CourtNav to help put together an application for an injunction and provide key information to a solicitor in order to assess your case as quickly as possible. You can access CourtNav here: https://flows.courtnav.org.uk/register
Once your application is drafted, you will be required to approve your statement to confirm that the contents contained within are true. We will send your statement via email for you to approve. Once complete, we will send all relevant documents to the Court. Ordinarily, the Court would not accept statements without a signature but during these difficult times acknowledge that people may not have access to technology which would allow them to electronically sign a document. Therefore courts are accepting unsigned documents, but a signed document is always preferred.
Once the court have received all relevant paperwork, they will notify us of a hearing time. The court hearing will take place remotely – usually by telephone – and the Judge will contact you at the beginning of the hearing.
How can I fund my application?
Our team are on hand to discuss the financing options available to you whether this be private funding or public funding.
Public Funding via Legal Aid is available for protective orders, subject to the correct evidence being obtained and a successful funding assessment. Our team of experts can provide you with a list of the evidence required to in order to make an application for legal aid.
Where legal aid is granted, this may cover all your legal fees for the matter, or you may be required to pay a monthly contribution.
If you are funding your matter privately, we will require money on account in order to start work on your case. Such figures can be discussed confidentially with a member of our team.
Pepperells Solicitors can provide advice and support in relation to a whole range of Domestic Abuse matters. Our team of experts will ensure that the legalities involved with your matter are dealt with professionally and efficiently. To obtain friendly advice about applying for a protective injunction, or to have a discussion about any issues you are currently experiencing regarding domestic abuse, contact one of our team today!
Adam Glentworth – Family Law Team.