As mentioned in my earlier article (COVID-19 Lockdown vs Domestic Violence), I discussed how, whilst the Prime Minister gave us a “very simple instruction” to stay at home, those that are subject to domestic violence are left in difficulties.
There has been a 25% rise in phone calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in the lockdown, says the support charity Refuge.
It was also discussed in the earlier article that, under 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”, and that a reasonable excuse includes the following:
“(c) to seek medical assistance, including 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 of illness or to escape the risk of harm…”
Therefore, it is clear that you can leave the house to avoid injury or risk of harm caused by domestic violence.
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.”
The Home Secretary has launched a new campaign advising people who are experiencing domestic abuse or who are at risk of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown that help is available to them. The Home Secretary advises that the Home Office is working with charities to provide an extra £2m for domestic abuse helplines and online support.
The Home Secretary has said: “Coronavirus has opened Britain's enormous heart and shown our love and compassion for one another as we come together to help those most in need. I am now asking this nation to use that amazing compassion and community spirit to embrace those trapped in the horrific cycle of abuse. And to help us all look out for those who need help, we have created a symbol of hope - a handprint with a heart on - so that people can easily show that we will not tolerate abuse as a society, and that we stand in solidarity with victims of domestic abuse."
Police officers and police community support officers are still working within the guidance which states that in such cases such as domestic violence, then the police should not use Regulation 6 but should “revert to normal process and legislation dealing with vulnerable people.”
If you are suffering or in fear of suffering domestic abuse, there are many sources available to seek help.
How can the law provide protection?
In my recent article (“In An Emergency – The Remedies Available”) the types of injunctions that are available are set out and explained.
The two types of injunctions are:
a. Non Molestation Order – this allows a person to be “protected” from the other person. It prevents one party from molesting, threatening or interfering with the other party of instructing, encouraging or in any way suggesting that another person should do not;
b. Occupation Order – this removes one party from a particular residence, preventing a party from returning to that particular residence or visiting that particular residence.
If the situation is urgent, you can make an application “ex-parte”. This means that an application can be made to the Court without giving the other party notice of the application, due to the urgency.
Where can I find support?
· 999 Silent Solution System
As stated in the previous article, you are able to 999 and, if you’re scared and unable to speak, you are now able to use the Silent Solution system which lets 999 callers press 55 when prompted. The operator will then be notified and the call will be transferred to the police and the operator will attempt to communicate with the caller by asking simple yes or no questions. If the caller is unable to speak, to the operator will provide instructions to the caller and they can assess the call and arrange help if required.
Whilst 999 calls from landline numbers can be traced, the Silent Solution system is not available to landlines. The 999 operators will only provide the emergency service if it seems that the caller requires emergency service.
It could, therefore, be argued that it may be easier to call from a mobile.
There are also helplines that are available and can be found HERE. These include, but not limited to:
a. National Domestic Abuse Helpline, 0808 2000 247;
b. Men’s Advice Lin, 0808 801 9999;
c. Galop for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), 0800 999 5428
Please note that these telephone numbers may change dependant on the date of this article.
· Online Support & Forums
Charities, for example, Women’s Aid, are encouraging victims to use the online forums and helplines in the event that they are suffering or are in fear of suffering domestic abuse, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Women’s Aid also provides The Survivors’ Forum which is an online forum for survivors of domestic abuse. This is available 24/7. More information can be found on their website.
Support Line provides confidential support to adults, young adults and children.
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.