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Domestic Violence support lines

Legal Support

Non-urgent legal support for hearings

  • Advocates are able to connect individuals who are not eligible for legal aid and do not have a hearing within 2 weeks with barristers who can provide free representation. They cannot litigate (write letters/complete forms) on a survivors’ behalf but can provide representation in Court, legal opinions and skeleton arguments. Application for their assistance can be made on: Apply for help (weareadvocate.org.uk)

Low-cost family law support 

  • Affordable Justice are family law solicitors who provide low-cost legal support at less than a third of commercial rates. Their services are only open to women, and they can provide a broad range of family law support for individuals who are not eligible for legal aid. Affordable Justice - Affordable, expert legal services to help break the cycle of abuse. 

Court Protections for Those Experiencing Domestic Abuse:

  • Injunction against a perpetrator of domestic abuse under Family Law Act 1996:

  • Non-molestation order which protects victims and survivors from abuse and harassment.

  • An occupation order which states who should live in the family home and can exclude a perpetrator from the surrounding area.

 

Domestic Violence Protection Order and Domestic Violence Protection Notices are short-term emergency protections. Click here to apply or renew.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduced Domestic Abuse Protection Orders which replace existing orders and can mandate a range of restrictions e.g. attending a perpetrator programme, exclusion zones or occupation restrictions. This will be rolled out from Spring 2024.

Complaints

  • Police: If you would like to complain how the police have handled your case, you can contact the police force involved directly; police force websites include information about how to complain.  A complaint can also be made to a police force by using the IOPC Complaints Form available on the website of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). 

 

  • Local Authority: If you would like to complain about how the Local Authority has handled your case, you can do this directly through the Local Authority's website or you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. Details of this process are listed on their website.

 

  • Courts: If you would like to issue a complaint about the administrative service you have received you can contact: Complaints procedure - HM Courts & Tribunals Service. If you would like to complain about judicial conduct or know more about the appeal process specific to your hearing there are a variety of steps you can take, dependent on the type of complaint and the type of court:                                       

 

Magistrate Court: There are several ways in which you may challenge magistrates’ decisions. The most appropriate method will depend upon the type of case and its circumstances. Before you lodge an appeal, you are strongly urged to seek legal advice as to the procedure, merit and cost.

 

Appeals against the decision of the magistrates’ court in criminal cases are heard by the Crown Court. The appeal is made to the magistrates’ court and the papers sent by the magistrates’ court staff to the Crown Court. Appeal a magistrates’ court decision: What you can appeal

 

Crown Court: For Crown and county courts you can appeal both civil and criminal cases, but it would be necessary to seek permission or ‘leave’ from a judge before an appeal can be made against a conviction in a criminal case.

 

Applications to appeal, and for leave to appeal against decisions made by the Crown Court are dealt with by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

 

Appeals against the outcome of a hearing in a county court or a High Court are mostly dealt with by the Court of Appeal Civil Division.

 

Although HMCTS court staff will be happy to offer procedural guidance, they are not permitted or trained to give legal advice or discuss whether you can or should appeal. For legal assistance, a solicitor should be contacted.

 

Alternatively, you may prefer to contact a Citizen’s Advice Bureau or other advice agency, where advice is generally provided free of charge.

Family Court and Relevant Guidance

The 2020 Ministry of Justice 'Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases' known as the Harm Report identified a series of failings in family courts, for those who require the court to resolve child custody matters:

  • Proceedings are lengthy and traumatising;

  • Domestic abuse is minimised;

  • Children’s safety is not prioritised; 

  • Instead, the demands of perpetrators are prioritised over the needs of adults and children victims and survivors

  • Civil Courts should follow the guidance of Practice Directions, including:

    • Practice Direction (PD)12J – applicable to all child arrangement proceedings where domestic abuse is involved or alleged. It sets out details of how domestic abuse should be understood, how the hearings should take place and be managed and factors to be considered when making child arrangements.

    • PD3AA – provides guidance on special measures to reduce traumatising nature of proceedings e.g. screens, separate entrances/exits/waiting areas, and the option of attending hearings via video link.

    • PD325B – provides guidance on the use of experts.

    • PD3AB – prohibits the cross examination by perpetrator or alleged perpetrator.

    • PD27C – permits the presence of IDVAs in court from 2023 as set out in PD27C.

    • The full list of PD can be found in the links below: - https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/family/rules_pd_menu                                                                                                                                     -Appealing against a court decision in civil and family cases

 

  • Family Court: If you wish to appeal a decision specific to Family court you can find out more here, follow the above guidance. You can find out more here too: Appeals - childlawadvice.org.uk

 

Parental alienation

Parental alienation is a form of domestic abuse and child abuse. However, the use of false claims of ‘parent alienation’ or ‘alienating behaviours’ as a counter allegation is becoming more common place in family courts, it serves to draw the focus away from the abuser and undermines the child’s wishes and feelings. Fears of false allegations of parental alienation are a barrier to victims and survivors disclosing their abuse to the courts. Courts often use psychological experts who do not have the necessary qualifications.

There is no commonly accepted definition of parental alienation and insufficient scientific substantiation regarding the identification, treatment and long-term effects, say CAFCASS Cymru, resulting in the term being used as a weapon by perpetrators.

If parental abuse is used in court, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner recommends:

  • The victim/survivor should inform the family court that this is a form of post-separation abuse intended to defect from the perpetrator’s behaviour and,

  • Demonstrate other abusive behaviours from pre- or post- separation to establish a pattern.

The family court must consider both allegations inquisitorially to ensure a fair hearing.

Courts experts should not financially gain from the testimony they provide in court. Courts instructing parents to work with experts who have given testimony is against guidance.

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