How Non-Molestation Orders can help victims of domestic violence and abuse

What is domestic violence and abuse

There can be no doubt that domestic violence is one of the most widespread and destructive offences. It is perpetrated by someone you are associated with, maybe someone you are or were in a relationship with, a relative, or someone who lives or has lived in the same home. It can also include financial, online or digital abuse, stalking and harassment.

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as: “An incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common”

However, victims are often let down by the legal system owing to the fact that there are a number of different offences and procedures set down in law. Due to this lack of clarity, there is considerable variation across the country in how effectively domestic violence and abuse is tackled. This led the Prime Minister to announce plans earlier this year for a major new programme of work leading towards a Domestic Violence and Abuse Act.

What are Non-Molestation Orders and how do they work?

Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and should always be reported to the police. However, victims should also be aware that they can go to the Family Court to obtain a Non-Molestation Order. This is an Order from the Court prohibiting a person from molesting another person. Molestation is defined as a degree of harassment that would call for the intervention of the Court. A Judge needs to be satisfied that intervention from the Court is required in order to control the behaviour that is represented before the Court and keep the applicant safe from harm.

Where there is a very real threat of violence towards you or your child, a Non-Molestation Order is clearly appropriate. However, molestation is quite a wide encompassing term and does not have to include violence. It can include behaviour that is designed to cause trouble.

Non-Molestation Orders are usually made for a period of six to twelve months and there are two ways of making an application, depending on urgency.

The first is to apply to the Court for an Order without notice (ie you do not need to notify the person (the Respondent) you are applying for an Order against). It is advisable to take this course of action where there is a real risk of significant harm to the applicant if the order is not made immediately. If the Judge is satisfied, the Order would come into effect straight away. In such cases there has to be a hearing within 14 days to give the Respondent a chance to have their say, but the Order remains in place during that time.

The second option is to make an application ‘on notice’, in other words the Respondent is notified about the application and the date of the hearing.  At the hearing (whether the application has been made without notice or on notice) the Respondent has the opportunity to either agree to the Order or to defend it before it is put in place.

Public Funding is available in domestic abuse cases. There are organisations both locally and nationally who can offer you help and support. We can also help and advise you if you would like to apply for a Non-Molestation Order.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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