Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Notices

Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Domestic Violence Protection Notices were introduced in 2014. Our work often overlaps with that of the police, particularly in the area of domestic abuse.

Victims of domestic abuse may choose to pursue a non-criminal option or a criminal option, or both. The police deal with the criminal option, and we specialise in the non-criminal or civil option. Civil options for victims involve applying to the Family Court for a court order to restrain the behaviour of the abuser. These are called non-molestation orders, and if the abuser breaches those orders, they may be arrested by the police. The Family Court also has the power to make occupation orders, excluding an abuser from a family home.

What happens if the criminal route is pursued? The police have a duty of care to the victim. The police usually ask the victim to give a statement and then the police will decide what action they are going to take. They may arrest the alleged perpetrator, and take them to the police station for questioning. This does not mean that the alleged perpetrator will be charged and go to court or be convicted. If there is sufficient evidence, then the police may ask the Crown Prosecution Service if there is enough evidence to charge the alleged perpetrator with a crime. If the abuse is admitted, the police may caution the perpetrator, which is an official warning. Or the police may simply release the arrested individual and that person would then return to the family home.

There is an obvious problem with the criminal options as set out above. Victims will be reluctant to make a complaint to the police if they know that the perpetrator will return to the family home unless the CPS agree that there is enough evidence to charge the perpetrator with a crime. This is a gamble that many victims would not be prepared to take.

A new power was introduced in 2014 to deal with this difficulty, which allows officers to issue Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs).

If police have reasonable grounds to believe a victim remains at risk of domestic violence, they can issue a DVPN, without the consent of the victim. The issuing of a DVPN requires police authorisation at superintendent rank or above. In order for a DVPN to be available:

  • the suspect must be over 18
  • there must be reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect has been violent or has threatened violence towards an associated person, and
  • that the DVPN is necessary to protect the associated person from violence or threat of violence by the suspect.

The DVPN can be issued at the time of attendance by the office at the incident. Within 48 hours of the DVPN being served on the perpetrator, the police have to apply to court for a DVPO, which stops the perpetrator returning to the family home for between 14 and 28 days. The court will make this order if they consider that the victim requires continued protection.

This power does offer victims some reassurance that if they contact police, there will be an opportunity for an officer to use powers to exclude a perpetrator from a family home.

Are these powers being used by the police in domestic abuse call outs? In the first nine months of receiving these powers, police in Essex issued 229 DVPNs and 199 DVPOs whereas in the Thames Valley, there had been 11 DVPNs and 11 DVPOs. It may be that their use has increased with time. In our experience, victims are often asked whether they want to “press charges” at the scene of an incident, which can be a difficult decision for a victim to make without the right support. The DVPN does not require the consent of the victim, and provides them with necessary time to seek additional support to consider their options.

Domestic Violence

Mounted Police by Hernán Piñera

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