With England coming out of a second lockdown and into the tier system there is still strong concerns for domestic abuse victims.
Family lawyers across our county are working tirelessly to support victims and domestic abuse organisations but demand is high.
During the first lockdown, it was reported that over 8,000 applications were made to the Family Court for protective orders between April and June. This is an increase of 24% than the same time last year.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can affect anyone from any walk of life, regardless of gender, age, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. It is defined as an incident or pattern of incidents including:
- Controlling and coercive behavior (defined as a continuing act, or pattern of acts, of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim).
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Harassment and stalking
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
Can I leave an abusive relationship during lockdown and the tier system?
Whilst we are being urged to stay at home and only travel if essential, the Government has made it clear that anyone who is at risk of or experiencing domestic abuse may leave home to seek protection and support. Household isolation does not apply to anyone needs to leave their home to escape abuse.
I am at risk of domestic abuse – what can I do?
Firstly, if you are able to, get to a place of safety. Once you have done so, it is important that you seek advice as soon as possible. Specialist lawyers will guide you through the options available and the steps that can be taken to secure protection from further abuse. In some cases, a warning letter will be enough but in other cases, protection is available through the Family Court by way of a Non Molestation Order. In urgent cases, the Order can be made on the same day and without prior notice to your abuser. Such an Order can protect you from further abuse and carries automatic powers of arrest which means that any breach of this order should result in your abuser being arrested.
If the abuse is happening within the home, then an Occupation Order can force your abuser to leave and prevent them from returning. Find out more about occupation orders here https://www.thefamilylawco.co.uk/blog/domestic-abuse/what-is-an-occupation-order/
If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 to seek urgent protection from the police.
How are the Courts dealing with applications for Non-Molestation Orders during lockdown?
The Courts are busy but still accessible, particularly for emergency orders though telephone and video hearings.
Will I be eligible for legal aid?
Legal aid is available for all victims of domestic abuse if they are seeking a protective Order from the Court. However, if your financial circumstances are above the usual limits for non-contributory legal aid, you will be asked by the Legal Aid Agency to make contributions to your legal aid.
Despite the current lockdown, most lawyers are still able to carry out legal aid assessments via telephone, video call or email. They will explore with you whether legal aid is in fact likely to be the most cost-efficient way of funding your matter, or whether other options may be more suitable for you.
What other support is available?
If you require further assistance, there are support agencies available across the South West and nationally dedicated to providing help and support to domestic abuse victims. Below are a few organisations that can help:-
- Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service – 01752 252033
- SPLITZ, Devon Domestic Abuse Support Services https://www.splitz.org/devon.html – 0345 155 1074
- First Light https://www.firstlight.org.uk/
- Safer Futures, Cornwall – https://saferfutures.org.uk/ 0300 777 4777
- North Devon Against Domestic Abuse https://www.ndada.co.uk/
- Refuge https://www.refuge.org.uk/