I have written on this subject each year and explained the risks that people are exposed to when abused in a relationship and the various laws that are used to protect victims. I have also written about the legislation which allows for disclosure to be either made or applied for in cases where someone is concerned about a person they suspect may be violent.
The laws used to protect victims through either prosecution or disclosure help a lot and they are mainly aimed towards people who require protection. However, there are civil laws which are designed to provide temporary protection in cases where people need time to consider whether they want to continue with a relationship and for multi-agency support to be offered, if needed.
One of the problems for people coming forward to report domestic abuse is that they feel that the focus is on prosecution, where, they are seeking help.
When someone seeks help, it is often during the evening or at weekends, where the only organisation who is available is the police and this understandably will make someone think that this will lead to a prosecution.
There is now a better understanding that the police can help quite a lot and the reports for domestic related incidents have increased accordingly.
It is true that if a person informs the police that they have been assaulted, an arrest is likely since the police will have a duty to investigate the circumstances and if violence has been used, then this is a criminal offence which would need to be investigated. But the victim`s wishes are taken fully into account and not all cases will lead to a prosecution.
The use of civil laws, such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) have increased and these are specifically designed to provide people with immediate protection and allow them a period in which to think about what they wish to do and receive the support of various organisations of charities, where needed.
It is this legislation which I want to highlight in this article and explain how the increased use of DVPO`s have helped many victims.
The reason for arresting someone is essentially two-fold; firstly, it is to investigate an alleged crime and secondly, it is to protect a victim whilst all options are explored.
If a victim is not wishing to seek a prosecution but they are not sure whether to continue with their relationship, or they know that they want to continue the relationship but want their partner or spouse to seek help for alcohol misuse for example, then this is where DVPO`s help.
An arrested person will have a notice served on them when they leave the police station. This will prevent them from going back to their home for a period of 24 hours.
Within the 24-hour period, the police solicitors will apply to attend a magistrate’s court to ask for a DVPO and if granted, this will last for no longer than 28 days, where the person will still be prevented from attending the home or getting their partner or spouse to leave.
The 28-day period offers time for someone to seek support. In the case of an abuser, this may be to get help for alcohol misuse or anger management. In the case of the victim, it allows time for them to seek support of organisations and think about what they want for the future.
There are cases where victims decide to end the relationship and the 28-day period is designed to give them time to make alternative housing arrangements or arrange childcare.
This legislation has been in place for over 10 years, however, the increase focus on domestic incidents has meant that there has been better use of it by police, especially during the last year, where there are officers who are points of contact within their teams to review cases and make applications for their use.
The increased use of DVPO`s has assisted in people viewing things from a different perspective, where they feel that they are being given time to either consider what they want from their relationship or seek help so that they are able to continue the relationship more safely.
There will always be the need to use criminal laws in cases where this is needed, so the use of DVPO`s do not replace existing processes but provide for an alternative approach where it is suitable.