28 August 2019

Domestic abuse and the family

By Maria Endall, Family Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

Domestic violence, or domestic abuse as it is now known, is a criminal matter. As its name would suggest, it happens within the context of family or between couples, and therefore, affects many of our clients. Sadly though, very few people seek the help and protection that is available to them.

Domestic abuse has been making the headlines over recent years, beginning with the introduction of The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as ‘Clare’s Law’, named after Clare Wood, a 36 year old mother who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. Clare never knew he had a history of violence against women. The scheme is designed to protect potential victims from an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy, allowing partners, friends and family to ask police for information about someone’s criminal record and whether they pose a potential risk.

In 2012, the government’s definition of domestic violence and abuse was amended to include controlling and coercive behaviour. Currently, the new Domestic Abuse Bill which is being considered by parliament, aims to go further by including economic abuse and other forms of manipulative non-physical abuse.

However, greater awareness and support of victims is required. People often don’t reach out for support, for fear of reprisals from the perpetrator, especially if they believe they cannot be adequately protected by the police. Where they have children, victims may also fear social services becoming involved if they contact the police, and worry that their children may be taken away from them. There are many other factors that may prevent victims seeking help, including financial, cultural, psychological or social reasons.

Local organisations offering support for victims include Leeway based in Norwich and Pandora based in King’s Lynn. Recently, Pandora received £85,000 in extra funding from the Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner in recognition of the important work they do. Pandora currently supports 300 women on a one-to-one basis and around 140 children in the course of a year. They offer a 10-week recovery programme for women who have left abusive partners to help them get their lives back together.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and have children, you have a duty to protect your children from the abuse; therefore, you may need advice in relation to obtaining an injunction against your partner or ex-partner. You may also find that you require advice in relation to divorce, finances and living or contact arrangements for your children. Any abuse you or your children have suffered may impact on the decisions you make in these areas, and on any court proceedings taken in respect of these issues.

As family lawyers, and specifically as members of Resolution; a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational separation, we always look out for the presence of, or risk of domestic abuse being perpetrated against our clients, and we very often see it in cases where it is not the primary reason for the client seeking our advice. However, once we become aware of the circumstances we are able to offer additional legal and practical advice to our clients who may be feeling vulnerable.

Domestic abuse happens to both men and women, to people of all ages and of all backgrounds and occupations, both as to the abused and the abuser.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you would like further advice on this matter please contact Maria on 01328 863231. If you require advice on any other legal matter call 01328 863231 or email law@hayes-storr.com.

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