Domestic Abuse

It doesn't matter who you are, or where you live, we can help.

If there is an investigation or prosecution for offences involving domestic abuse anywhere in England or Wales then you are looking for assistance in the right place. Whether there has been an arrest, a Domestic Violence Protection notice (DVPN), or charges in Court, we can be with you all the way through the process.

At Stone King we provide strictly confidential advice and representation during an investigation or prosecution. This website provides a wealth of comprehensive information to offer answers to your initial questions. As leading specialists, we offer material for use by both individuals and professionals involved with such offences.

Our expert team are on hand to help you take the first step in sorting this out. You can be assured of a confidential, non-judgmental and sympathetic approach.

Contact Ryan O’Donnell or Nicholas Wragg now by calling 01225 485700 or email confidential@stoneking.co.uk

Domestic Abuse  - Offences

Cases of domestic abuse have a significant impact on individuals and their families; we provide support and guidance on these cases which require sensitive and careful handling.

There is no specific offence of domestic abuse. Domestic Abuse is defined as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

There are numerous offences which fall under the category of domestic abuse including assault, harassment, coercive & controlling behaviour & sexual offences. Cases with a domestic abuse element require careful consideration and expert knowledge.

Where appropriate, evidence of a genuine recognition for the need for change, and evidence of obtaining help or treatment can be a mitigating factor during sentencing. We can help you obtain support and treatment.

We collaborate with trained psychologists, therapists, counsellors, social services, employers, police, probation and families. We make a difference. Help is available.

The history is always important. As compassionate listeners your story needs to be heard.

We can assist in representing you for civil orders in the Magistrates Court such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders or variation of a Restraining Order.

Our expert team are on hand to help you take the first step in sorting this out. You can be assured of a confidential, non-judgmental and sympathetic approach.

Contact Ryan O’Donnell or Nicholas Wragg now by calling 01225 485700 or email confidential@stoneking.co.uk

Therapy & Support – Domestic Abuse

For those accused of offences involving domestic abuse, who want help and therapy, we offer a unique and innovative psyco-legal Therapy and Treatment Package. Developed in collaboration with leading forensic psychology specialists and our own expert lawyers, we provide specialist access to a range of therapeutic and treatment services for those facing the criminal justice system.

Overview

Approximately 1% of alleged offenders receive intervention to address their behaviour. Help is available.

If your relationship has become about arguing, bickering or control; if your relationship is unhappy and unhealthy; if your relationship produces anxiety and stress; if there is manipulation, aggression and conflict; then help is available.

You do not have to wait for the police or court system before seeking help.

The current police and court system focus on those convicted offenders who are medium to high risk of harm. Those offenders may be offered rehabilitation via the probation service accredited programmes such as Building Better Relationships. Those considered low risk of harm are less likely to obtain specialist intervention.

The Sentencing Council’s overarching sentencing principles for domestic abuse make it clear ‘evidence of genuine recognition of the need for change, and evidence of obtaining help or treatment to effect that change’ is a can be a mitigating factor when dealing with sentence.

There is growing research which demonstrates the effectiveness of quality assured interventions however access to them remains limited.

As leading specialists, our team ensures that clients who want help can get access to the very best specialist therapy available, at the earliest opportunity. By offering a staged Treatment Pathway, and through our close links with the very best experts in this evolving field, we can offer a unique programme of therapy that will deliver the very best outcomes available, tailored for every individual.

Stage 1

An Introduction to Therapy and Rehabilitation, to inform and empower the individual about what Therapy and Rehabilitation means and the therapeutic options available.

We will explore the importance and role of therapy and treatment in the criminal justice system, the impact on sentence and the approaches available during any investigation or prosecution. A participant will be provided with core texts for self-study and other specialist written material.

You will learn about what therapy involves, how and why it will help you and your case, understand and discuss risk and the risk management procedures you are likely to face and more. This will either be a foundation for the assessment and therapy to come or will be a stand-alone session to facilitate a self-help programme going forward.

Stage 2

For those who wish to undertake treatment, stage two is an entirely independent Psychological Treatment Needs Assessment. Undertaken by leading independent forensic psychology specialists, this bespoke assessment will identify the central treatment needs in relation to offending risk and your well-being and lead to recommendations for the most effective programme of therapy. It is a unique opportunity. The Psychological Treatment Needs Assessment will then inform the individual and therapist about appropriate treatment topics and modules, and draws on the most innovative and leading thinking on the treatment of offenders, able to operate significantly ahead of statutory or probation based programmes.

Stage 3

The main phase of treatment, the Treatment Plan. This may be delivered through your existing or own choice of therapist using the Psychological Treatment Needs Assessment to inform their work, or you may wish to undertake the therapy offered by the expert service who conducted your assessment.

The work may include participation in a specialist group work programme specifically developed for this package, individual therapy sessions, one-to one psychologist appointments, or a combination of options.

The Treatment Plan is likely to be delivered over a 6 -12 month period, although every case is different and your treatment needs assessor will make recommendations as to what would be the most appropriate pathway in your specific case. The experts we work with operate on a non-judgmental basis. They have vast experience in working with people facing allegations, convictions or risky behaviour, and will consider your case as an individual and a person. This is crucial, as the factors contributing to behaviour will be different for every person and in addressing these factors each person has different needs. The expert provider knows that this may be one of the most stressful situations you have found yourself in, and they will work to help you as a whole person.

Conclusion

Crucially, progress from the Introductory Session, through the Treatment Needs Assessment and then the Treatment Plan will be documented and evaluated. The therapist(s) will provide information on your progress from their perspective, which is independent from us as solicitors, and so this professional opinion can be helpful and persuasive for decision makers in your case.

You may choose a package that includes post-treatment forensic psychological risk assessment. Up to date reports of the highest quality can, if you choose, be made available at any stage. The view of an independent forensic psychologist in relation to your individual progress and risk can be extremely useful. We can provide risk assessments. The experts we work with are highly experienced specialists in this field, and they are able to communicate their views clearly in written reports and in oral evidence where needed.

Therapy is a highly personal process, and there is no guarantee of success; readiness for treatment, an open mind, honesty and engagement is central to your progress. This is why we have a staged, incremental process. However, an individual facing the Criminal Justice System, Social Services, an Employer, family or other decision maker, can be assured that their commitment to self-improvement and living a healthy life can be demonstrably and reliably described by independent experts of the highest standing.

The specialists we work with not only deliver treatment and assessments as part of their routine practice, they are also experts with regard to publishing peer-reviewed scientific journals in forensic psychology and are very well-respected experts in their field

You do not have to wait to do something about what has happened. Our approach to legal advice and services is to solve the wider problem through being pro-active, not reactive. If getting therapy sounds like it might be part of your solution, we can help.

Sentencing – Domestic Abuse

The maximum sentence available in a Magistrates Court is 26 weeks in prison per offence, and a maximum total of 52 weeks in prison. If the powers of the Magistrates Court are not enough then a person will be sent to the Crown Court, where a Crown Court Judge will decide the sentence. A Jury never decides the sentence to be imposed.

Call 01225 485700 or email confidential@stoneking.co.uk for advice.

In all sentencing cases there are essentially three types of sentence available; a fine, a community order or a prison sentence. If a person would otherwise be given a prison sentence of 2 years or less then the prison sentence might be suspended. This means that the person will not actually go to prison as long as they stay out of trouble and comply with other community requirements.

If a person pleads guilty they will receive a discount on their sentence. This is because it saves time and money if those who are guilty plead guilty. A person who pleads guilty straight away will usually receive a discount of one third. A person who pleads not guilty to start with but changes their plea later might receive a discount of 10% or 20%.

There is no specific offence of domestic abuse. Domestic Abuse is defined as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

There are numerous offences which fall under the category of domestic abuse including assault, harassment, coercive & controlling behaviour & sexual offences.

The Sentencing Council has released an overarching guideline to assist Courts during sentencing of offences involving domestic abuse. Domestic abuse offences are regarded as particularly serious within the criminal justice system.

Seriousness

The domestic context of the offending behaviour will make the offending more serious because it represents a violation of trust and security that normally exists between people in an intimate or family relationship. There may also be a history of call outs reported by the police or children who witnessed abuse.

It is recognised that cases involving domestic abuse have a damaging effect and therefore these cases are treated as particularly serious.

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or any behavioural disorder, the Court will also consider the guidelines for those with mental health issues.

Aggravating Factors

There are also a number of aggravating factors that the Court may be asked to consider. These may include:

  • Abuse of trust and abuse of power
  • Victim is particularly vulnerable (all victims of domestic abuse are potentially vulnerable due to the nature of the abuse, but some victims of domestic abuse may be more vulnerable than others, and not all vulnerabilities are immediately apparent)
  • Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident
  • Steps taken to prevent the victim obtaining assistance
  • Victim forced to leave home, or steps have to be taken to exclude the offender from the home to ensure the victim’s safety Impact on children (children can be adversely impacted by both direct and indirect exposure to domestic abuse)
  • Using contact arrangements with a child to instigate an offence
  • A proven history of violence or threats by the offender in a domestic context
  • A history of disobedience to court orders (such as, but not limited to, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, non-molestation orders, restraining orders)

Mitigating Factors

The Court will also consider the following mitigating factors:

  • Positive good character – as a general principle of sentencing, a court will take account of an offender’s positive good character. However, it is recognised that one of the factors that can allow domestic abuse to continue unnoticed for lengthy periods is the ability of the perpetrator to have a public and a private face. In respect of offences committed within a domestic context, an offender’s good character in relation to conduct outside these offences should generally be of no relevance where there is a proven pattern of behaviour
  • Evidence of genuine recognition of the need for change, and evidence of obtaining help or treatment to effect that change

Once the court has made appropriate adjustments depending on aggravating and mitigating features, the court will then give credit for any guilty plea, at a level in-line with the timing of that plea.

If the sentence at that point is above the custody threshold the court must ask whether a prison sentence is necessary in all the circumstances of the case. Even if a case is serious enough for a prison sentence, a prison sentence may not be given, perhaps because of certain mitigating features or because the offender has shown a commitment and readiness to undergo rehabilitation and therapy. A robust community sentence may be a proper alternative to a prison sentence in such a case.

The principles state ‘Where the custody threshold is only just crossed, the court will wish to consider whether the better option is instead to impose a community order, including a requirement to attend an accredited domestic abuse programme or domestic abuse specific intervention. Such an option will normally only be appropriate where the court is satisfied that the offender genuinely intends to reform his or her behaviour and that there is a real prospect of rehabilitation being successful’

If the offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified then if that sentence is two years or less the court must ask whether the sentence can be suspended. The court may suspend a sentence of imprisonment if the circumstances of the offence or the offender make it appropriate to do so. A prison sentence may, for example, be suspended because whilst the offence is so serious the prospects of effective rehabilitation in the community are real and genuine. A person may have work or family commitments that would mean another person would be adversely affected by such a sentence. Each case very much turns on its own facts. If a court suspends a sentence of imprisonment then it can impose any requirement that it might have done under a community order, or impose no requirements other than not to commit a further offence.

A community order may include an order to undergo therapy or treatment organised through the probation service. It may also include an order to undertake community service, which is unpaid work in the community. It can also include being ordered to wear a tag with a curfew to remain indoors at your home address for certain hours during the week.

The Court will also consider whether it is appropriate to make a restraining order.

If you are a member of the Armed Forces and face charges or sentence relating to domestic abuse please get in touch with Ryan O’Donnell to discuss the sentencing options available.

At Stone King we believe in thorough preparation for each sentencing exercise, being prepared to evidence any key features of mitigation and enhance our submissions through effective documentation, references or other evidence. Understanding the end point of the process is crucial from the beginning to make sure that a client makes the very best decisions at each step of the process.

 

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