Is the range of possible legal responses to domestic violence sufficient to protect victims?
Domestic violence goes beyond physical violence and can include psychological, emotional sexual, financial and emotional abuse. Domestic violence can affect adults in all types of relationship and can also include violence between parents and children.
Explain the legal response to domestic violence, including:
• Non-molestation and Occupation orders under the Family Law Act 1996.
• Injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
• Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders under S24-33 of the Police & Security Act 2010 (being piloted in 3 police areas).
• Offences of violence under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
• Public order offences under the Public Order Act 1986.
• Offences of harassment under the 1997 Act (and amendments to cover stalking made by the Protection of Freedom Act 2012).
• New offence under s 76 Serious Crime Act 2015.
Given the breadth of conduct included in the Home Office definition of domestic violence, do you think that the legal response is adequate? There are lots of things you could comment on, for example:
- Is there enough variety in the available remedies? For example, do these remedies work in the same way for violence between adults and violence by a parent against a child?
- What do you think about the use of criminal law? Might some people be against reporting their parent or partner to the police? Should it be up to the victim to decide?
- Do civil remedies protect the right people? Consider Helen Reece's arguments in ‘The End of Domestic Violence’ (2006) 99(5) MLR 770.
- Occupation orders may involve removing someone from their home. In some cases the person with the benefit of an occupation order may not otherwise have been able to occupy the property.
- Does the new offence of coercive control better capture the nature of domestic violence?
It is also worth considering that the criteria for claiming legal aid are very restrictive and that many victims of domestic violence would not meet them.
Conclude with your assessment of the current law and, if you think that the law should be reformed, explain how it should be reformed.