Victims of domestic abuse often report feeling powerless at the hands of their abuser. Long term abuse has the effect of disempowering the victim to the extent that the behaviour to which they are subjected becomes a bizarre kind of normality such is the power and control of their abuser. The legal remedies available to victims are not only daunting, but can feel inadequate in the face of a determined and resourceful abuser.
Stalking has an equally disabling impact on the victim. Stalkers are regularly warned and sometimes prosecuted by the police. However nothing can prevent the victim’s overwhelming feeling of fear and invasion of privacy caused by such obsessive behaviour and the sense that life is ‘on hold’ until this situation is dealt with.
To defeat such appalling behaviour, victims need to consider all the options available to them. Taking control away from an abuser is a key element in deterring their behaviour. Standard advice is to involve the police and to seek a non-molestation injunction order or a restraining order under Protection from Harassment legislation. Such orders carry powers of arrest and possible criminal conviction in the event of an allegation of breach of the order.
In addition to the powers which the Protection from Harassment Act affords the police it can also be used by the victim as a means of applying for a civil restraining order. What is often overlooked is the right of the victim to claim damages from their abuser using the same legislation and as part of the same action. We recently acted for a client in such a claim. Our client was awarded damages of £15,000 in addition to her legal costs against her abuser in respect of a two and a half year campaign of text and e-mail threats.
Damages are awarded in bands according to the seriousness of the abuse. They are as follows:
Less serious cases:- Up to £6,000;
Moderately serious cases:- £6 – £18,000;
Most serious cases:- £18 – £30,000
Only in the most serious cases will compensation exceed £30,000
If there is a criminal conviction (which there often is in such situations), the abuser will have no defence to the damages claim, which means that the only task for the court will be to summarily assess the level of damages payable.
An injunction order usually expires after a few months, save in the case of very serious long-standing behaviour. An award of damages remains in force until it is paid and the victim (or ‘judgement creditor’ as they will become) can enforce at any time without notice to the abuser – an important consideration when seeking to deter an abuser. Damages can be enforced by a variety of methods including deduction from earnings, charging/forcing sale of property, bankruptcy and bailiff’s warrant.
In addition to risking imprisonment for breach of an injunction, an award of damages will cause even the most determined abuser to take stock in the face of possible loss of assets and income. For those who show contempt towards court orders and/or police action, a hit in the pocket can have the desired effect.
For further information on how we may help, please call our Exeter Solicitors on 01392 421777.