The New Domestic Abuse Bill
On 29th April 2021, the Domestic Abuse Bill passed both Houses of Parliament meaning that the Domestic Abuse Act will soon come into force. There is now a statutory definition of Domestic Abuse (albeit not a particularly helpful one): “behaviour which is abusive towards one person against another”. Behaviour is abusive if it involves:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Violent or threatening behaviour
- Controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse, or
- Psychological, emotional or other abuse.
This Act (amongst other things) gives the Police and Courts new powers (e.g. to impose Domestic Abuse Protection Notices/ Domestic Abuse Protection Orders) which seek to protect victims from their abusers.
Domestic Violence Protection Notices
Currently, the police have the power to impose a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) following an arrest. The grounds for the police to impose a DVPN are:
- That it is reasonably believed that violent or threatening behaviour has been used; and
- The order is necessary in order to protect the victim from further violence
They can last up to 48 hours, in which time the police can apply to a Magistrates’ Court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO).
Domestic Abuse Protection Notice
The new powers to issue a Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) will be similar to the current powers, except that DAPNs can be issued on the grounds that:
- There are reasonable grounds to believe that a person has been abusive (as defined above); and
- That there are reasonable grounds to believe that the notice is necessary to protect the complainant from further abuse.
As you can see, the new powers will be much broader than the current powers, as “abuse” encompasses much more than simply violent or threatening behaviour. The notices can put restrictions on you (preventing you from contacting certain people or entering certain locations), and breaching the order could mean that you are further arrested. DAPNs will be issued at the police station, and therefore it is important that you are legally represented if you are accused of any offence in relation to any person to whom you are connected (partner, child, parent, sibling etc.).
We advise that you ask for David Gray Solicitors, who are available 24/7 and will represent you for free.
Domestic Abuse Protection Orders
As mentioned above, currently the police have to apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order. The grounds for the magistrates to issue a DVPO are the same as for a DVPN, and the prohibitions MUST include:
- That you are prohibited from “molesting” (disturbing, annoying, tormenting, threatening, intimidating, harassing etc.) the person for whose protection it is issued.
The order CAN also include terms (amongst others) that:
- Require you to leave a premises
- Prohibit you from coming within a certain distance of a property
- Prohibit you from entering a premises (which can come with the exception that on one occasion you may need to enter the premises in the presence of officers to collect necessary possessions)
These orders last for a period of 28 days. The essential difference between a DVPN and a DVPO is that a DVPN only lasts for a short period (2 days) until the matter can be brought before a Magistrates’ Court. It is the police who issue a DVPN, often when they have been called to a ‘domestic’ incident and they suspect violence has occurred. Where the victim wishes to pursue a complaint (prosecution of the perpetrator) then the perpetrator would be arrested in the usual way and the police can impose bail conditions preventing him or her from going near the victim or his/her address. The police find DVPNs are useful where a victim will not co-operate and provide a statement, making a prosecution difficult. They can then apply to the court for a DVPN to be made into a DVPO. Where a DVPO is made following an application from the police (which is often), the police may then use that time to persuade the victim to make a witness statement, thereby allowing the perpetrator to be prosecuted.
Applying for a Domestic Abuse Protection Order
Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, on the other hand, can be applied for by the police, but also by the person whom they will ultimately protect, and they can be issued by the court without application during other ongoing proceedings (e.g. family court proceedings). These orders can be made without notifying you that there has been an application, but if that happens, you have the opportunity to make representations about the Order by way of an application to the Court. The ability of the court to make an Order without any notice to the alleged perpetrator marks a significant change to the current position. Where this happens we would advise you to get in touch as usually the order will have been made without anyone being able to put across your side of the story. It may be we could apply for the removal or variation of the order.
Additional Terms in a Domestic Abuse Protection Order
The grounds for making the DAPO will, again, be the same as for a DAPN. The terms can be much wider reaching. They can include all terms that could be included in a DVPO, but can also include:
- You must submit to electronic monitoring
- You must attend certain courses (regarding alcohol/substance misuse, or a Domestic Violence Perpetrator’s Course)
These new orders, which are far more intrusive than current DVPOs, can be made to last for a specific period of time or they can last indefinitely.
Breaching the Order is a criminal offence.
It is therefore very important that, if you are subject to an application for a DVPO or a DAPO, you contact our team of experts who will be able to help you defend any application, and ensure that any order imposed is no more restrictive than is necessary. Please enquire with David Gray Solicitors regarding this, as you may be entitled to Legal Aid for the proceedings.
If you have any questions, or would like further information about the above, please contact us on 0191 232 9547.