Interview with a DV Lawyer

Tahera Patel (Solicitor & Mediator)
Copper Stone Solicitors

How often do you see clients suffering from dv who need legal advice?

Almost, on a daily basis. Statistics shows that around 1.9 million between the ages of 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (Crime Survey for England and Wales) and the police recorded 1.1 million domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes (March 2017).

What is a restraining order/injunction and how can it protect someone?

Restraining Orders aims to protect victims of crime. It’s a criminal offence if breached.
It may prevent a person from harassing another person by directly or indirectly (letter, text, email, post, social media etc); prevent a person from being in a specific place or area or restrict a person from behaving in a certain way or approach another person.

Injunctions are court orders that forbids someone from acting in a certain way. An emergency injunction is made without notice / ‘ex-parte’ – it means that the perpetrator will be unaware of the injunction until it is served on him/her.

3 most common kinds of injunction are: Non-Molestation Order, Occupation Order and Prohibited Steps Order.

A Non-Molestation Order aims to protect you provided that your relationship falls within the categories as set out in s.62(3) of the Family Law Act 1996. It can be granted for 6-12 months and is an arrestable offence if the perpetrator breaches the Order after being served. Perpetrators will be forbidden from:

• using or threatening unlawful violence towards you;
• intimidating, harassing, pestering and molesting you;
• communicating with you directly or indirectly and;
• instructing and encouraging others to do which the perpetrator is forbidden to do so.

An Occupation Order aims to regulate the family home. This order can suspend the perpetrators of domestic violence rights to occupy or visit the home and prevent the perpetrator from entering, returning or coming within 100 metres of the home. It’s usually for 6-12 months and is an arrestable offence too.

A Prohibited Steps Order forbids you from removing your child away from your care and control and from the jurisdiction of England and Wales. A penal notice is usually attached this type of order. Anyone with parental responsibility can apply to the Court.

What is legal aid and who qualifies?

Legal aid is available to those that are at a most risk of being excluded from accessing the legal system. It can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in court or outside of court.

However, you will need to show that your matter is eligible for legal aid and the problem is serious and that you cannot afford to pay for legal costs.

You will be eligible for Legal aid if:

• you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm, for example, domestic violence or forced marriage;
• you are at a risk of homelessness or losing your home;
• you have been accused of a crime or likely to face prison or detention;
• you have been discriminated against;
• you require family mediation;
• you feel that your Human Rights have been infringed.

What does the law say about domestic violence?

Domestic violence is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
I have never been physically abused, only mentally. Does the law recognise this?

Yes, it does – definition of domestic violence was amended to include such type of abuse.

Is culture a barrier you experience when women approach you for help?

Often it is, especially for the client belonging to the South Asian Community.

Have you helped men suffering from DV?

Yes, we have. Often men are the victim of domestic abuse and not all men have the confidence to seek professional help due to stigma and shame.

What is the three key advice you would give to men or women suffering from DV?

Contact us immediately, do not suffer in silence and alert authorities.

Is DV a problem in the Muslim community or are we overplaying the issue?

It’s an issue that exists in all community. In the Muslim community, often these issues are addressed through mediation from family and mosques with the hope of salvaging the marriage. At times pressure is applied on the victim to save the marriage for the sake of the children, family honour etc.

What would you say to sceptics who accuse you of only furthering the divorce statistics in Muslim communities?

Well, the relationship has broken down between the parties before we are approached by client’s therefore, lawyers cannot be held responsible for furthering divorce statistics in the Muslim communities or any other communities. Our role is simply to assist with the conduct of the matter.

What role do you think mosques can play in the committee to tackle DV?

Perhaps, raise more awareness and address the issues not necessarily to save the marriage but find ways to manage if not minimize risks. Also, work closely with the family and provide any form of support/counselling that the families may require.

What draw you to work in this field?

The challenges that it brings and being able to help the vulnerable and the weak.

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