Domestic Abuse – What protections can be given to victims of violence?
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When officers receive reports of a crime involving violence in a domestic situation there are two specific steps that can be taken to help keep the victim safe.
Often this will be done with the full support of a victim but, in very serious circumstances, may be done without their support when an officer believes they are in imminent danger.
The two steps are a Domestic Violence Protection Notice which is followed by a Domestic Violence Protection Order.
What is a Domestic Violence Protection Notice?
A DVPN is a notice served by the police on a person, where there is a reasonable belief that the person has been violent or has threatened violence against a victim and the victim needs to be protected from that person. A DVPN cannot be issued to a person under 18 years.
A DVPN can:
- prevent the perpetrator from molesting (harassing and interfering) the victim directly or indirectly
- prevent the victim (and their children) from being evicted or excluded from premises in which they live with the perpetrator
- require the perpetrator to immediately leave the premises when served the notice
- prevent the perpetrator from entering the premises
- prevent the perpetrator from coming within a specified distance of the premises
Once served, a DVPN is in place for up to 48 hours.
What is a Domestic Violence Protection Order?
A DVPO is an order granted by a Magistrates Court following the issuing of a DVPN by the police. Within 48 hours of serving a DVPN on a person, police are required to attend a Magistrates' court with the DVPN and ask the court to consider whether it should be converted to a DVPO. Before granting the order, a Court needs to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the perpetrator has been violent towards, or has threatened violence towards the victim; and a DVPO is necessary to protect that person from violence or a threat of violence by the perpetrator. If the court issue the order, then it can last a minimum of 14 days to a maximum of 28 days. A DVPO can contain the same or different prohibitions than that of the DVPN.
Does a victim of abuse have to agree to a DVPN or DVPO?
Both DVPNs and DVPOs can be pursued without the consent and support of the victim, even when they raise objections. In effect the decision-making process is taken away from the victim to ensure that the cycle of abuse is broken, whilst removing any responsibility or pressure from the victim to take action against the perpetrator. There is also no requirement for the victim to attend court. However, every effort should be made to seek the victim’s support and keep them informed of the process. They should also be offered independent support e.g. an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA).
The authorising officer should consider the following when reaching a decision to issue a DVPN:
- the opinion of the victim
- any representations made by the person who will receive the DVPN
- the welfare of any relevant person aged under 18
- the opinion of any ‘associated person’ living at the same address (where the victim and suspect are living together).
The court must consider the same factors when reaching their decision for a DVPO.
What happens if someone breaches a DVPN or DVPO?
A breach of a DVPN is not a criminal offence. Therefore a perpetrator cannot be charged with breaching the notice. Instead they should be arrested and at the earliest opportunity (within 24 hours) be brought before the magistrates’ court for the court to consider the application for the DVPO.
If a DVPO is breached, the perpetrator should be arrested and taken before the court within 24 hours (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays). Where the court is not sitting the perpetrator will be kept in police custody until the next sitting. A breach will be treated as contempt of court. If found guilty, the court can order the perpetrator to pay a sum not exceeding £50 for every day during which he/she is in breach (up to a maximum fine of £5000), and/or remand the perpetrator to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two months. Again, there is no requirement for the victim to make a statement or go to court. Police provide the evidence of the breach.
How can I find out more?
You can find out more about domestic abuse support in the county and across the UK here:
How to keep internet activity secret
An element of domestic abuse may include the abuser checking your phone or computer.
If you are accessing support websites then this is best done on a computer that the abuser does not have access to, at work or a local library for instance.
However, if this is not possible then you can find out how to how to keep you internet activity secret and how to delete websites and searches from your computer here: https://www.reducingtherisk.org.uk/cms/content/internet-safety