Mixed verdict on non-molestation orders
In April judges warned that new laws to protect victims of domestic violence have had the reverse effect and are deterring victims from coming forward to seek help.
Last July a provision in the Domestic Violence Act 2007 came into force which meant that breaching a non-molestation order became a criminal offence, rather than being dealt with in the civil courts.
Circuit judges and the Association of District Judges are worried that victims are reluctant to seek an order in case their partner ends up with a criminal record and potentially a prison sentence of up to five years. This, say judges, had led to a decline in the number of applications for nonmolestation orders.
However, Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, disputes this, saying there are no official figures to prove or disprove that the legislation has had a negative effect.
“If fewer women are reporting violence it may not have anything to do with the changes in legislation. There may be other contributing factors, such as accessing legal aid for women seeking civil remedies like non-molestation orders.
“If we are ever to see a reduction in the harrowing statistics on domestic violence, it is essential that we implement a rigorous arrest, charge and prosecution policy.”
Anne agrees, and believes that nonmolestation orders are effective and, as they have the power of arrest, offer more protection.
“It is more likely to be the co-ordinated response that frightens victims, everyone knowing their business such as teachers at school, but we need to do this to safeguard children.
“I feel the biggest threat to victims is the thought everyone will know you are a ‘bad’ parent if they report this abuse. We need to send a clearer message out that domestic abuse does harm children but that can be healed with support.”