Violence/Coercion Within the Home During Lockdown

By Zen Thompson

Solicitor, Mediator and Arbitrator

We have been contacted with questions about how the Courts are dealing with domestic violence issues during the lockdown and thought it would be helpful to put together some of the questions and answers in one FAQs.

How has the lockdown impacted on domestic abuse?

Abusers often rely on isolating their victims from friends, family and colleagues in order to prolong and worsen the impact of their abuse. The lockdown has aided and abetted them in this and has deprived victims of many of the avenues usually available to relieve such pressures. Many support groups have reduced their staff as a result of the virus whilst demand of their services has increased by around 25%. Even before the virus, the Government estimated the annual cost to society in the UK of domestic abuse to be £66 billion a year.

How are the Courts dealing with urgent domestic violence applications?

The Court has made it clear that they are prioritising urgent domestic violence applications and that they are still accepting such applications. Local Courts have reported that they are receiving around 3-4 such applications on a daily basis. We have a lot of experience in dealing with applications to protect and prevent domestic abuse, and we have experience of how the Court is dealing with remote hearings and applications.

Has the Government thought how the lockdown will impact on domestic violence?

It has been widely reported that there has been an increase in domestic abuse of as much as 20% as a result of the lockdown. The Government has made it clear that the household isolation instruction as a result of coronavirus does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse. The Government has introduced a new Domestic Abuse Bill which includes provisions to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, to apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse. It also introduces an official definition of domestic abuse, which includes emotional, coercive and economic abuse as well as physical violence. The second reading of the Bill is due to take place today.

What are Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and Protection Notices?

These are Orders which would be introduced by the Bill so the police can apply to Court to protect victims immediately and offer flexible, longer-term protection by imposing requirements on perpetrators. This could include prohibiting contact with the victim or forcing a perpetrator into alcohol or drug treatment programmes.

To discuss any of the issues above or if you have any questions on how these issues may affect you, please contact one of our family solicitors Zen Thompson on 01279 712553 or zthompson@nockolds.co.uk.