Domestic abuse is a serious issue which effects many families; there is evidence from Women’s Aid that the lockdown situation as a response to the corona virus may have led to an increase in incidents of domestic abuse as victims are isolated with the perpetrators and are less able to access their usual means of support.
Generally, people should not be leaving the place where they live. However, the government has allowed people to leave in certain specified circumstances, as set out in s.6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.
S. 6(2)(m) makes it clear that it is acceptable for people to leave in order to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm. As such, if a person is in a situation where they are at risk of domestic abuse then they can leave their house in order to escape from such a situation. As such, the lockdown does not mean that a person who is living in a household where they are the victim of domestic abuse cannot leave that household until the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Please see updated rules regarding legal aid.
The Family Court has issued a list of Family Business Priorities . This outlines the work that they must do, will do and will do their best to do.
Domestic Abuse (Family Law Act) Injunctions, such as Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders, fall into the category of work they must do and so are in the highest priority group. This means that, even as the restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of the corona virus, victims of domestic abuse should still be able to access the courts and the orders which they need to safeguard them.
The government has issued guidance on applying for such an injunction which can be accessed here.
Apply online using RCJ Advice’s CourtNav service. Before you apply, you’ll need to create an account. CourtNav will produce the FL401 form and statement for you. If you need help using this service, contact CourtNav by phone on 0203 974 7899 or email CourtNav@rcjadvice.org.uk. The line is open between 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am to 12 pm on Saturdays. Closed on bank holidays.
You can also apply by post by filling in the application form (form FL401). You can get a copy of the form sent to you by email by contacting an open court. If you want to submit your completed form in person you can do so by visiting an open court. See court tracker for details of open courts and to get their contact email address and postal address.
The application process is largely similar to that which is followed when there are no restrictions in place. The application should be made using the FL401 form. As some courts are closed it is important to ensure that the court where you are making the application is still operating. If the court closest to you is closed then you should use the next nearest available court. You can check whether your local court is open here. Telephone and email contact details for courts can be found on the court and tribunal finder by entering your post code.
Where ever possible the application should be made online; if you cannot access the forms online then you can contact the relevant court and ask them to send a copy of the forms out to you. Once the application has been made the court will contact you with information on a hearing. Where ever possible hearings will be conducted remotely, most often by telephone or video link. Hearings can also take place in the form of letters or e-mails if necessary. If the court grant an order then they can make arrangements to have it served on the perpetrator and notify the police; thus, if the order is breached, it can still be enforced by contacting the police.
From August 3rd 2020 until 3rd May 2021 there will be a temporary modification to the procedure rules to provide for the courts to direct another method of service of applications and orders made under Part 5 Family law Act 1996 other than by personal service, i.e. Email, Whatsapp, through the door of last known address.
Therefore, it is quite likely that service electronically will be actively used and personal service will be dispensed with if the respondent was present at the time the order was made.
The government has issued guidance on How to get help if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, which includes advice for those who have been the victim of domestic abuse from a UK national but do not have settled status themselves in the UK.
The government has also issued guidance on Support for victims of domestic abuse during coronavirus, which includes contact details for other organisations which can give emotional support or practical help to victims of domestic abuse.
Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS) is a legal support organisation which can help find support services in a person’s local area. They can be contacted by telephone on 0203 745 7707 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children.
If you feel that you are at immediate risk of harm from domestic abuse then you should call the police on 999.
Many of the people who can help in a situation where a person is trying to deal with domestic abuse are deemed to be key workers or carrying out vital services; as such, many remain open and are able to provide help during this time.