As the UK Government last week announced an extension of lockdown measures for at least three more weeks in a bid to combat the continued spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, people across the country continue to adapt to an extended period of life at home with their family.
Recent stories in The Guardian and Times have highlighted what was widely feared would be the case; that for the many thousands of victims of domestic abuse, they face a situation where they will be trapped at home with their abuser with no viable end date in sight. Several women’s charities such as Refuge have reported an increase in calls of up to 25% year-on-year as they continue to support victims of physical, psychological, emotional, financial or sexual abuse.
Spratt Endicott’s specialist family law team are here to support you throughout the ongoing lockdown.
When can you leave the house?
It is important to remember that although people have been encouraged to stay at home, support is available from the police, the courts, and charities for victims of abuse in the home. Government guidance was also updated last week to allow individuals to leave their house for a few days following an argument with their partner.
The government’s advice also makes it abundantly clear that “the household isolation instruction[s] as a result of coronavirus [do] not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.”
As women’s refuges continue to offer a vital service and housing authorities face an increasing challenge of finding temporary accommodation for victims of domestic abuse, family solicitors are still able to make applications to provide further protection to victims.
A Non-Molestation Order is an injunction which protects against any further violence or threats of violence, intimidation or harassment through any means, to the applicant or any of the children. This can be applied for by a solicitor and will typically stay in place for 6-12 months. Any breach of the order during this time is a criminal offence which can result in arrest.
While a Non-Molestation Order provides direct support to victims of domestic abuse, an Occupation Order is made in relation to the family home. An abuser can be excluded from the home or certain areas of it. These typically last for 6 months, although they can be extended.
Breach of an Occupation Order does not automatically result in arrest, but the courts will amend the Order to include arrest if there has been violence or a threat of violence from the perpetrator. It should also be noted that an Occupation Order will typically be made in conjunction with a Non-Molestation Order when the parties are (or have been) cohabiting.
If you feel there is a threat to your or your children’s safety in your own home, then it is important to take the appropriate measures whether they be through staying with a family member, contacting the authorities, or contacting your Solicitor to seek protection through the courts.
At Spratt Endicott we can support you through this difficult time with advice tailored to your specific situation and needs.
Sobiah Hussain is a Solicitor in Spratt Endicott’s Family Law practice and member of the family law professional body Resolution. To discuss any aspects of this article please contact Sobiah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also seek support from one of the following organisations:
- The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is free to call and open 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247
- Refuge offer a range of support through their website including identifying the signs of domestic abuse and the ability to speak with a member of their team online: https://www.refuge.org.uk/
- Women’s Aid are providing updated guidance during the lockdown period and have a database of local support networks on their website: https://www.womensaid.org.uk
- Men’s Advice Line offer online and telephone support to male victims of domestic abuse and have updated guidance relating to COVID-19: https://mensadviceline.org.uk/
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation.