Friday May 20, 2022
Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse
In response to the death of Sarah Everard earlier this year, a report was commissioned to analyse how police engage with, amongst others, women and girls who are victims of violence.
The report explains:
The first part of our inspection focused on the police response to victims of violence against women and girls (VAWG) offences, and sought to answer:
1. How effective is police work to prevent women and girls becoming victims of violence and abuse?
2. How effective is the police response when women and girls report crime?
From a family law perspective, we will look into how effective Non-Molestation Orders are at protecting victims of abuse. (Note – it is important to remember that domestic abuse now includes physical, emotional, mental, and financial abuse.)
What is a Non-Molestation Order?
A Non-Molestation Order (‘Non-Mol’) is an order which protects the victim (the applicant) from someone (the respondent). Usually, the respondent will be prohibited from molesting (using threatening or intimidating behaviour, using violence or harassing the applicant) the applicant, and/or people close to the applicant, and/or any children.
Whilst a Non-Mol is a civil order made in the Family Courts, a breach of this order is a criminal offence and ought to carry with it a power of arrest.
Sadly, the report found that sometimes, when a victim who had a non-mol had reported a breach to the police, this was not always acted on. The report looked at 83 cases where a non-mol had been breached and found that in 52 of these (over 62%), the police did not identify that the breach of this order was both an offence in itself, but also evidence of further domestic abuse in the form of stalking, harassment, or coercive and controlling behaviour. The report also found that once reported, it took over 24 hours for the police to respond to a breach in over half of cases.
The Role of IDVAs
What the report did highlight, however, was how crucial Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) are in supporting victims of domestic abuse. Some police forces worked very closely with IDVAs to offer an out of hours service so that a victim of abuse could access support whilst waiting for police to respond. There was also reference to IDVAs being placed in some hospitals, which meant that victims who had suffered abuse could be recognised and helped sooner.
IDVAs said that they were concerned that they would tell victims who they are supporting that a non-mol would be the best approach to protect them, but that when breaches weren’t enforced, it puts the victim in danger and the IDVA in an awkward position having been the person who recommended the option.
Again, sadly, out of the 83 cases looked at, 42 of these did not have an IDVA involved.
Where do we go from here?
The report summarises that whilst there are clear failings, work will be done to address this:
“As a society, we have a moral imperative to support and protect victims of these appalling crimes. Our evidence shows better support also means victims are more likely to feel able to support prosecution of their perpetrator.”
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 became law in April this year, which will bring in Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (‘DAPO’s). Breach of a DAPO can carry with a prison sentence and fines (further information can be found here). The question still remains, though, whether these breaches will be acted on more effectively.
How AFG LAW can help
Contact our team of specialists, in confidence, today:
Via telephone: 01204 920 101
Via email: email@example.com