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Archers storyline strikes a chord with domestic abuse victims

View profile for Ruth Hetherington
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Ruth Hetherington, Family Solicitor in our Frodsham office discusss the storyline and how it reflects real life situations.  

Many people still think of domestic abuse as physical violence, but the drama centred on Rob’s systematic undermining of Helen’s personality, showing how this could be just as devastating. If you’re currently the victim of domestic abuse and are concerned and afraid of your current or former partner, you have a right to be protected under the law.

Domestic violence is dealt with both under the criminal law and the civil law. The civil law is primarily aimed at protection. You can make an application for an injunction (a court order). You could try to gain some protection from your abuser by applying for a civil injunction or protection order. There are two main types of injunctions available, both can have a power of arrest attached by the courts if they believe that you are in any danger.

A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing your partner or ex-partner from using or threatening violence against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you, in order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of yourself and your children. You can apply to the Family Courts for an order specifying where and with whom the children should live, and regulating contact with the other parent. Whatever your partner might say, your children will not be taken away if they are safe with you.

An occupation order regulates who can live in the family home, and can also restrict your abuser from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or have left home because of violence, but want to return, you may want to apply for an occupation order.

If you are not eligible to apply for an order under the Family Law Act, or are being continually harassed, threatened, pestered or stalked after a relationship has ended, you can also get civil injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Do I have to get the police involved?

There is no requirement that you must go, or must have been, to the police before applying to the Court for a protective Order. However, the Court would be likely to ask why you had not first reported the matter to the police. In addition, the Legal Aid Agency would expect you to have reported matters to the police before you apply to the Court. However, if you have reported matters to the police and they have decided not to take any further action, you can still apply for a protective Order in the Family Courts.

What evidence do I need?

Courts appreciate that victims of domestic abuse often do not seek help in the early stages, or report incidents to the police or other authorities. Therefore, courts do not expect that victims of domestic abuse will have a long history of police or medical incidents. Sometimes evidence may exist in the form of statements from former friends, colleagues or neighbours, GP or social services’ assessments. You may have sources of evidence that you had not previously thought about.

Your evidence for the Court will first be presented in a statement, which will set out the history of the relationship and the abuse that has taken place. At the first hearing the Judge might ask you a few ‘closed’ questions (i.e. questions with short factual answers) to make sure that you are happy with the statement you have made and you understand what is going on. It may end up that your case has to go to a ‘contested hearing’ if your former partner both attends Court and objects to the making of any Order. In these circumstances, you may have to give evidence to the Court directly, which means going to the witness box and answering questions. If this is likely to happen in your case your lawyer will discuss it with you beforehand.

Getting legal advice

Although you can apply for an injunction yourself, you might find it helpful to have legal advice. It is best to get a solicitor who has a lot of experience with domestic violence cases, and who is likely to understand all the issues. You may be eligible for public funding (Community Legal Services funding, or legal aid) to pay your legal costs if you are claiming welfare benefits, or are on a low income and have little or no savings.

If you are affected by emotional abuse in your relationship, as a wife, husband or partner, here at FDR Law we can help. Contact us in complete confidence and we can discuss your legal rights and a way forward. We understand the feelings and concerns you have and make it our priority to support and help you through this difficult time - Ruth.hetherington@fdrlaw.co.uk

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