The ‘double impact’ of Domestic Violence
The recent case in which a TV presenter received a conviction for harassment causing fear of violence has focused the spotlight once more upon domestic violence issues. What has been different about the coverage, and indeed what the case represents, is the growing need to consider domestic violence in all its forms.
Traditionally, the emphasis has been upon the physical aspects, and the impact of this cannot be underestimated. However, the jury in the case were principally concerned with the issues of emotional and psychological abuse. As the Chief Crown Prosecutor in the case stated, 'both can be equally serious and distressing'. This need to consider all facets of domestic abuse cases has led the Home Office to update its definition of what domestic abuse means, to recognise aspects such as psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour. The definition is due to be implemented in March 2013.
The widening of the Home Office definition is particularly important, as it represents a shift towards recognising the subtleties and complexities of domestic abuse. Whilst a strict definition is impossible, it can include many behaviours such as attempts to undermine the sufferer’s self-esteem, preventing them from seeing friends or family, restricting their access to money or even controlling the way in which they dress.
In domestic abuses cases court intervention can be sought, for example by way of non-molestation orders and occupation orders. A non-molestation order covers a wide range of conduct, from actual violence to threats of violence, and can be made where the applicant’s health (both physical and mental), safety and well-being are at risk. Occupation orders enable the court to regulate who occupies a property, including restricting or suspending the rights of a party to do so. Both types of order can be made on an emergency basis.
As Family solicitors, the team at Simpson Millar recognise the importance of a sensitive and personalised approach in domestic abuse cases, with a team of experienced solicitors who can provide advice and assistance. We can carry out an assessment of eligibility for Legal Aid and may still be able to assist at competitive rates even if this is not available. Please contact a member of the Family team for further details.
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