What Legal Steps Can be Taken in Cases of Domestic Violence?

In the UK almost every fourth woman is a victim of domestic violence. Such is the devastating impact that it has ruined lives, destroyed families and the self esteem of those affected.  So what can be done to protect the vulnerable in these situations.

There are help lines to deal with those who suffer in silence, victims or those in fear of their lives but in some cases this is not enough.  The law does provide certain help via the following ways:

Non-Molestation order

A non-molestation order is a form of an injunction which protects one of the partners or the children from harassment, threats and from actual violence. The court issues this order where there is a threat to well being of the applicant or child.  If the threat is imminent then the court make the order without a hearing.  It is therefore a resourceful tool to have in dire circumstances.  The order can be limited in scope or the court could keep it indefinite depending on the situation.


Where the order is granted the party on whom it is binding must comply.  If they do not, the court can issue criminal and civil proceedings. Breach of the non-molestation order can be tried by the CPS and upon conviction the defendant can be punished with up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine or both. Alternatively, civil proceedings for contempt of court can be brought by the applicant. In this case the defendant can be imprisoned for up to 2 years or receive a fine.


Occupation order

An occupation order is an injunction which can allow or effectively bar someone from occupying the family home. It can also oblige the cohabiters to use specified parts of the property. Whether a party can obtain such order depends on both the marital status of the couple and the occupation rights that they have over the premises.


The order must be granted by a court and when taking a decision factors that will be taken into account include the threat of actual violence and whether there are any alternative properties where one of the partners can reside together with the children. Occupation orders are valid for a specified duration as they are intended to be a short-term measure.


Breach of an occupation order is not a criminal offence unless the court has attached a power of arrest to it. In such circumstances the defendant can be imprisoned for maximum of two years or can be obliged to pay a fine of up to 5,000. If power of arrest has not been issued, the applicant must apply for a contempt of court which is a civil wrong.


What if I have been domestically abused

If you have been a victim of domestic violence you do not need to suffer in silence.  There is much we can do to protect you.  If the threat is imminent we can apply for an emergency injunction which can take place without a hearing and safeguard you and/or children against further harm.  The court would usually list a hearing date and the parties would then be allowed to present their case.  The court would then consider if the order is set to continue.