Blog: Domestic Abuse Protection Orders – what are they and what difference will they make?
26 Jan 2021
By Aileen Colhoun:
The Domestic Abuse Bill, which at the time of writing is passing through the House of Lords, proposes to introduce a new legal tool designed to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which will be available in Family, Civil and Criminal courts, can impose strict restrictions on an abuser, with powerful criminal sanctions if these are broken.
The Orders are designed to be easy and speedy to obtain and are likely to prove a popular remedy for abuse victims.
What are Domestic Abuse Protection Orders?
“Domestic abuse” is defined broadly, comprising a range of behaviour – physical or sexual abuse, violent and threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological, emotional or other abuse.
The availability of these new orders is deliberately designed to extend beyond the remit of the currently available Domestic Violence Protection Orders, which are limited in scope to situations in which there has been violence or a threat of violence.
The standard of proof required to obtain a Domestic Abuse Protection Order is the civil, rather than the criminal, standard. They also enable evidence of conduct committed outside the jurisdiction to be taken into account, as well as, importantly, conduct committed before or after commencement of the Act.
Crucially, in order to obtain an Order it is not necessary to prove a course of conduct and it can include conduct directed at another person, such as a child.
How to obtain a Domestic Abuse Protection Order
A Domestic Abuse Protection Order can be obtained in a variety of ways. In the criminal courts this includes a standalone application by the police or a person seeking protection or following service of a Domestic Abuse Protection Notice issued by a senior police officer. If a Notice is served, an application for an Order must be made in the magistrates’ court within 48 hours (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays). Orders can also be imposed following conviction or acquittal in criminal proceedings.
Both Notices and Orders can contain a number of requirements such as non-contact and exclusion from premises. Orders can even require electronic monitoring. Breach of a Notice can lead to a remand in custody and breach of a requirement in an Order is a new either-way criminal offence with a maximum sentence on Indictment of 5 years’ imprisonment with a Notification requirement. By law it will not be possible to impose a conditional discharge upon conviction. The Order is designed to be a tool with teeth.
Will Domestic Abuse Protection Orders make a difference?
As an alternative to arrest, charge and proof to the criminal standard of a specific criminal offence, a Domestic Abuse Protection Order appears to be a viable solution for those suffering domestic abuse. A perpetrator will avoid an arrest and conviction as long as there are no breaches – an important carrot to many where personal or professional reputations are at stake. I am looking forward to seeing how they will work in practice.