Domestic Violence – Applying for Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders.
What are Non – Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders?
It is a sad fact that a high proportion of violence and abuse happens in the home and also often against women. The abuse and violence within a family sometimes involves children who are either physically involved or witness it between their parents. In this article I would like to explain the possible actions that a victim can take. I will refer to the victim as the woman and the perpetrator as the man but it is sometimes the case that it is the other way around. However we should not be in any doubt that the usual victim is the woman and it is to women that I wish to refer to in this article as the victim.
Firstly what is domestic violence and are you experiencing it?
This might seem like an obvious answer. In some cases it is clear if the woman has been physically hurt by the man such as by him punching, kicking or biting her. Also if he has used a weapon such as a knife or a blunt instrument and cut or hit her with it. This is clearly violence and the woman in these cases if she is able to must dial 999 immediately for police help.
In serious cases like these the violence will usually be visible on the body such as bleeding or cuts and she may be taken to hospital by an ambulance. In such cases the man can be arrested by the police and taken to the police station. This will relieve the victim and make her feel safe at least for that night. In some cases the man may be charged and bailed and there will be bail conditions for him not to approach the woman and she will then have some protection because if this is breached by the man the police can arrest him as soon as they are called. However if the man is not arrested or charged there will be no bail conditions then there is nothing to stop the man from returning to the victim. In such cases the Police sometimes offer to help the woman find a place at a women’s refuge and advise her to take out a Non Molestation Order against the man. If the police do attend they should provide you with a crime reference number which you must keep. But other than that they will not intervene.
But not all domestic violence is as obvious as that described above. Even if it not as serious as an outright physical attack its consequences can be just as devastating to the woman and the children may be witnessing it. For example if the man is alcohol dependent or taking drugs his behaviour may be erratic and the woman and children live in fear of his changing moods. Threats of abuse and other non visible violence such as pulling the woman’s hair, hitting her head, and shouting, swearing, shaking, pushing and shoving are commonly experienced by victims. Increasingly common now is abuse using social media such as Facebook. Forcing sex upon the woman or forcing anal sex are types of abuse and violence committed against a woman who often feels she cannot escape from.
Other abuse can be that of extreme controlling behaviour; demanding to know who she sees or speaks to, economic control is also common such as withholding money to the woman. These are all forms of violence and abuse. As you can see there are many types of abuse and they do not all result in a trip to the hospital or an arrest but they are very real to the woman and her family and affect her to the extent that she is terrified and yet this is not the kind of violence that a woman can feel that she can call 999. If she tried to it is often the case that the police will not act classing it as a domestic matter and they would advise the woman to get a non molestation order.
The steps a Woman can take if she cannot call 999
Take photos of any injuries and copies of any abusive texts.
Tell your GP
There are steps that a woman can take to protect herself and her children. If there is persistent and constant bullying and other forms of violence then she can tell her GP. This is very important. She must tell her GP what is happening so that he or she can not only make a note of it she can also ask her GP to refer her to domestic violence counselling. She can tell her GP that it must be confidential if she is frightened that the man will find out.
Victims of domestic abuse and violence often feel trapped and worthless. Depression is a common symptom of domestic violence and if a woman is depressed this will impact on her children and well being and must be treated by her GP.
Non molestation Orders and Occupation Orders
If the woman feels that she just cannot cope anymore she should seek help from a qualified solicitor in getting a Non Molestation or Occupation Order. This will feel like it is a huge step for a woman to take. Many women feel that they are unable to take that step and usually they are forced into it after something has badly triggered the man and he has become particularly nasty or violent to the woman. Sadly it is usually after something violent has happened that the woman feels that this is just the last straw and she seeks legal advice in getting an Order. Where children are involved in the abuse or violence it becomes even more important for the woman to act as she is expected to protect her children and if the school or social services are alerted to the situation they will expect to see the woman doing all she can to protect her children.
What is a Non Molestation Order?
This is an Order of the court which protects the woman from the man committing any harm, abuse or violence against her. It also stops him from getting anyone else from committing harm to her. The power of the Order is that if it is granted the Order gets registered with the police and if there is an incident the Police will act and the man will be arrested immediately. The order is good protection for the woman and if needed for the children also. If the woman is afraid that the man will find out that she is going to get an order and she fears what he will do to her to stop her an Order can be given by the court without him knowing about it. This gives good protection to the woman. He only receives notice of it after it is given by the court and he can if he wishes attend court at a later date to explain himself. Usually the Order is then put in place for 12 months.
What is an Occupation Order?
If the man is living with the woman and has a right to live in the property for example he is a joint tenant to the tenancy or owns the home or jointly owns the home in which they live then the woman cannot stop him from coming into the house even if she has a non molestation order. He has a right to live there and has a legal right to come into the property so long as he does not commit violence. In some cases the woman can only feel safe if the man is excluded from the property or forbidden to come within a certain number of miles to the property. This is an Occupation order which will stop the man from coming into the property or from coming within a certain distance of it. Usually these orders are not made without giving the man some notice. It’s usually the case that the non molestation order is made first and then a few days later the court will hear about the occupation order and then decide if they should grant that order as well.
Who can get an a Non Molestation Order or an Occupation Order
These are some of the frequently asked questions about these Orders:-
Do you need to be married?
Do you need to apply for a divorce as well?
Do you need to have children together?
Do you need to live together?
Do you need to have a relationship?
Do you need to have had a relationship in the past?
Yes at some point in your lives you would need to have had some kind of relationship together even if it was for a short time.
Do you need a Solicitor?
Technically No you can go to court fill out the forms and make a handwritten statement or even ask to speak to the Judge but in reality it is not like this. A woman usually feels bewildered and rarely feels able to just turn up to court and ask for a non molestation order. It is a challenge enough to have decided to take this step let alone have the mental capacity to deal with the administration of it. There are forms to complete and a statement to make which has to set out reasons for an Order. You are asking the court to make an Order against someone which will be registered with the police and which can get him arrested. You may even be asking for him to be removed from the house. So you have to show the Judge the reasons. It helps to have a solicitor to make the application for the woman so that the reasons can be properly set out for the judge to read. The woman has to come to court with her lawyer as the judge will not want to make the order unless she is there. So the woman has to be prepared to come to court which will be her local county court.
The first step is the hardest one but once taken is in many cases a huge relief to have taken. Many men do obey the Order. Often men who commit violence at home do stop once an Order is taken out. Many men do not think that the woman is capable of taking action like this and when they do they are shocked. The common reaction is not to actually respond with violence but to adopt the role of being victimised themselves. They often accuse the woman of over exaggerating and or being influenced by friends or family because they do not think that they can have taken action themselves and must have been put up to it by someone else.
The woman must be prepared mentally to be accused of many things once she takes control of her life in this way. She must also be prepared that the man can breach the order. In these cases she must immediately call the police and they will attend to arrest the man as they will be aware of the order. In some cases the man may be mentally ill in which case an order is not going to have an effect on him. In these cases it is imperative that the woman simply leaves the property and goes into a refuge with her children so that the man cannot find her. If the woman is just not sure how the man will react once he finds out about the Order she must go to a place of safety.
Will a solicitor do the work under legal aid?
A solicitor can do the work under legal aid if the woman qualifies and the solicitor will ask questions to see if the woman qualifies. It is now the case that the woman should have some proof of domestic violence before she qualifies for legal aid and a letter from her GP can help. It is therefore important that the woman does see her GP if she is experiencing abuse or violence.
Ismail and co solicitors will be holding an Open Day (date to be announced) for victims of domestic abuse. If you are interested in coming for a free confidential consultation at our Open Day then please call the number below.
Djanan Ismail, Solicitor
0208 804 1065