During the lockdown, the Prime Minister, in his words, gave us a “very simple instruction” to stay at home and we were only to leave the house for necessities.
Home is considered a safe place to be in light of the current climate regarding COVID-19. But… what about those who are subject to domestic violence? Home is not a safe place for them to be and actually may put them at greater risk.
A police leader has warned that “there has been a rise in domestic abuse incidents during the Coronavirus outbreak”.
Due to the lockdown, those that are affected by domestic abuse may be subject to greater abuse during this time of self-isolation, stress and uncertainty. The lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing, in particular, could be argued as a way for perpetrators to be coercive and controlling, or make it seem more “acceptable” to the victim.
Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 now makes it an offence for a person to leave home without a “reasonable excuse”. It clearly states that a reasonable excuse includes the need:
“(c) to seek medical assistance, including to access to any of the services…
(i) to access critical public services, including –
… (ii) social services;
… (iv) services provided to victims (such as victims of crime) …
(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape the risk of harm…”
Harm and domestic abuse are more than just physical violence. This can also include, but not limited to, coercive control, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse.
Therefore, and in accordance with Regulation 6 above, if you (and your child(ren) if applicable) are leaving the house to avoid injury or risk of harm caused by domestic abuse, then you have a “reasonable excuse” for doing so.
Regulation 6 also sets out that you (and your child(ren) if applicable) will have access to the public services and resources available in the event they are required.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also confirmed this and stated that: “whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.”
Police officers and police community support officers have been issued with operational guidance and the guidance makes it clear that home may not be safe for everyone and in such cases, for example, domestic violence, police should not use Regulation 6 but should “revert to normal process and legislation dealing with vulnerable people”.
Of course, many are most likely unable to make the phone call or leave their home without the perpetrator noticing.
However, if you’re scared for your safety and unable to speak to someone when calling 999, you are now able to use the Silent Solution system which lets 999 callers press 55 when prompted.
If you are facing these difficulties and wish to discuss your options, then please do not hesitate to contact me on 0207 183 4595.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a person fully qualified before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
Solicitors 0207 183 4595