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How does the law protect victims?

In this video, we asked our expert practitioners how the law in the UK protects victims of DVA.
There’s a big issue in the United Kingdom as to how domestic abuse or domestic violence is legally classified. In England and Wales, there isn’t a crime of domestic abuse or domestic violence. It’s other crimes committed in the context of domestic violence or as part of behaviours that you would flag as a police officer as domestic violence, say. And that causes gaps in the information that the police have, if flagging isn’t correctly applied. We talk about DVPNs and DVPOs. One’s a domestic violence protection notice, and one’s a domestic violence protection order. And the process actually explains what those two things are. The police can apply to the court for a domestic violence protection order.
And the process of doing that is that an officer would gather a certain amount of evidence - and it doesn’t need the cooperation of the victim - and would send it to a superintendent, which is what I am. And what I do then is I consider the circumstances, and I agree that there is a threshold met and that it should go to the court. That’s where the domestic violence protection notice comes in.
So the areas within it - such as the non-molestation, they must not attend a certain address, they must not damage items, they can’t go within a certain distance - the domestic violence protection notice affords the victim protection until the court can consider whether that is converted to an order. The court will then consider the application. And if they agree that the threshold is met, and it’s proportionate and necessary in those circumstances, then they will issue the order. And the purpose of the domestic violence protection order is to give the victim 28 days space to be able to consider what other options there are available.
And they may go on to, say, apply for a restraining order, or seek to move accommodation, or - there will be a number of things that they want to put in place. But the purpose of it is to give the victim some time and space to consider what they want to do next. Even if the victim does not support this, we can still apply for this. And it will be agreed, if the court considers that it is proportionate and justified in those circumstances. Depending on the level of violence and whether the victim cooperates will obviously influence that decision. We can assist clients in applying to court for the protection of injunctions. And that’s under the Family Law Act 1996.
There are two types of injunctions. There’s an injunction called the non-molestation order, which provides clients with personal protection, stops the perpetrator from using violence, threatening violence, harassing, intimidating. And then there’s occupation orders, which is about regulation of the family home, so can either get a perpetrator out of the property, if they’re in the property, stop them from returning, and providing an exclusion order to stop them from coming within a certain area. The police can proactively and preventatively share information with health or social work professionals, with local authority professionals, and effectively call for an intervention to help safeguard a victim.
But police powers at the moment to take preventative steps to prevent domestic violence in a relationship tend to be focused around sharing information with victims under Clare’s Law or intervening in a relationship and barring an individual from contacting a victim or residing with them, living in the same premises as them for either 48 hours or even a longer period of time under something like a domestic violence protection order. Those preventative powers aren’t very subtle. There can’t be many ingredients in the mixture of what those powers do effectively.
The new Domestic Abuse Bill and the government’s policy work that now runs alongside that in a kind of commentary on the draft legislation makes it clear that things like electronic monitoring will be used on a greater scale than before. And one of the new proposed domestic abuse protection orders could be used to GPS track an offender. And the government estimates that about 1,000 people in the UK at any one time would be GPS tracked under those orders, under the new style of court order. And that you wouldn’t need an individual’s consent.

Around the world, at least 119 countries have passed laws on domestic violence. 125 have laws on sexual harassment and 52 have laws on marital rape.

In this video, we asked our expert practitioners how the law in the UK protects victims of DVA.

What do you think?

Do you think the law does enough to protect victims? What protections exist where you live?
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Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

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