There is no doubt that living in lockdown places a strain on relationships, with one reported domestic abuse call to police every 30 seconds in the first seven weeks of lockdown.
And the Respect Men’s Advice line experienced a 60 per cent year on year increase in calls between April and July as couples faced the pressures imposed by the Covid-19 restrictions.
Although changes to the way domestic violence hearings take place are still making their way through the system, there are ways to get protection now, says solicitor Elizabeth Scrivens from our Family team:
The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through Parliament will create a statutory definition of domestic abuse that covers not just physical violence but also emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse.
This is very important as a vast number of domestic violence issues we deal with tend to be cases of emotional, coercive and/or economic abuse.
Another major change in the new bill is that perpetrators will no longer be able to cross-examine their victims in person. However, lockdown has already allowed the courts to take a positive step in this direction before it becomes law.
Courts are now dealing with some hearings remotely, which means that the victims of domestic violence do not need to face their perpetrators and this can be a more sensitive way of dealing with hearings.
I recently dealt with a hearing, where the parties gave evidence in separate court buildings via video link. This allowed a hearing to take place whilst protecting the victim of the abuse and keeping them separate from the perpetrator.
The bill also contains a presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts. This is of vital importance when court resources are low and there’s no guarantee that screens or protective measures will be available.
If you need help now, we are here. In the early stages of lockdown, I secured an urgent non-molestation order for a client who needed immediate protection. My colleagues have dealt with multiple cases where urgent orders have been obtained during lockdown. Despite the court staff shortages and the courts being overrun with work, they are still prioritising urgent matters and we as a team can act quickly to secure urgent protection for clients who need it.
For help and advice on these issues contact us will be able to help.