The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Domestic Abuse and Violence

Domestic abuse is not something that should ever be accepted, and there are laws which aim to protect the victims of abusive partners.

The Home Office defines domestic violence, or domestic abuse, as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.’ It includes many forms of abuse, including psychological, sexual, financial and emotional.

Controlling behaviour is defined as:

‘range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.’

While coercive behaviour is defined as:

‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.’

If you have suffered this sort of abuse, then you should inform the police, who will be able to offer you protection and take action against the offender. While domestic violence is not an actual criminal offence, many acts such as harassment and assault do constitute criminal behaviour.

There are two recent laws which seek to help victims of domestic violence:

Domestic violence protection notices and orders

As of 8th March 2014, police are now able to issue domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) to protect victims of domestic violence in the immediate aftermath of an incident. These orders can ban the perpetrator from returning to the residence of the victim or making contact with them.

The initial means of protection which the police can provide for victims is the Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN). This can be issued if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has committed or threatened violence towards somebody and that the issuing of a DVPN is necessary to safeguard that person.

The terms of the DVPN effectively prohibit the individual from visiting the victim’s home or contacting them. If these terms are violated then the police can arrest the individual without warrant and hold them in custody until the hearing of the application for a Domestic Violence Prevention Order (DVPO) at the magistrates’ court.

After issuing a DVPN, the police must make an application for a DVPO to the magistrates’ court within 48 hours (or within 24 hours of arrest, if the DVPN was breached).

The court will issue a DVPO if both of the following apply:

  • It is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person has been violent or threatened violence against the victim
  • It thinks that a DVPO is necessary to protect the victim

If a full DVPO is granted, then the victim is protected for a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days. The perpetrator will be banned from contacting or returning to the victim’s residence, enabling the victim time to seek support and review their options.

Domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS)

Under the government’s new Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, you have the legal right to ask the police whether your partner has a history of domestic violence. This has become known as Clare’s Law after Clare Wood was murdered by an ex-partner, and had been unaware of his violent past. If you make a request under this scheme, the police will consider disclosing the information if it is ‘legal, proportionate and necessary’.

Agencies and other third parties such as parents, neighbours and friends can also ask for this information to be shared on somebody else’s behalf.

To make a request for information you can call the police on their 101 number, approach a police officer on the street, or visit a police station.

Advice helplines

If you are suffering from domestic violence, or you know somebody else who is a victim and need advice on what to do, the following organisations can help.

English National Domestic Violence Helpline

0808 2000 247

Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline

0808 80 10 800

Women’s Aid Federation (Northern Ireland)

0800 917 1414

Scottish Women’s Aid

0800 027 1234

National Centre for Domestic Violence

0844 8044 999

Men’s Advice Line

0808 801 0327

Broken Rainbow (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)

0300 999 5428