Coronavirus has meant that the people of the United Kingdom have to remain within their homes at all times unless it is for essential or urgent medical reasons (GOV.UK, 2020).
Whilst for many people staying inside the house for a long period of time can be boring and frustrating, for some family lockdowns may even be dangerous or cause significant tension to escalate within the household. Domestic Violence (DV) in the United Kingdom is described by the government as not always an act of physical violence, instead DV can be but not limited to:
• coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
• economic abuse
• online abuse
• verbal abuse
• emotional abuse
• sexual abuse
Within March 2019, the NHS recorded an estimated 2.4 million adults (16-74 years old) experienced a form of Domestic Violence (Townsend, 2020). This figure has significantly increased, where Refuge as reported that in March 2020 it has seen a 700% increase of callers reporting to be victims of Domestic Violence since the announcement of the Covid-19 lockdown.
On the 26th March 2020, The Health Protection The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England Regulations 2020) came into force. This means the people are only able to leave their house under “reasonable excuses” (Venters, 2020). Victims of Domestic Violence are able to leave the house for the following reasons:
• To fulfil a legal obligation. This includes attending court or legal proceedings.
• To access public services. These include services provided to victims of crime.
• To avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
If you are currently awaiting a hearing at the family court, it was advised on 23rd March 2020, that Family Court Hearings should be undertaken by means of telephone conferences or alternative electronic communications platforms. Courts, are still available to hear urgent childcare applications or if you are seeking to apply for an injunction, a non-molestation or occupation order under Part IV The Family Law Act 1996. However, if you have any concerns regarding your urgent hearing and we are acting for you it is best to call us up to check.
When a victim is placed in “lockdown” with an abuser for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this may mean that there is a higher risk of violent episodes within the household. Moreover, for many victims this can also mean that they are not able to contact help as easily as before. According to (Venters, 2020) the following guidance should be considered;
Seek support from family and friends. Whilst you may not be able to physically communicate with your friends or family, it is important to digitally remain in daily contact with people that you trust, to ensure that someone is able to know if you and the children are keeping safe.
If you are in immediate danger then it is important to dial 999. If you are unable to talk on the phone by pressing 55 on the keypad the call will be transferred to a police force who will appropriately assist you within the need for you to speak outload.
As local Oxford solicitors, we are here to help! We also have solicitors based in Hertfordshire and lawyers in Milton Keynes.
It is also important to mention the following helplines:
• For further information and advice on Child Arrangement Orders: https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-information/family-law/coronavirus-and-child-contact-arrangements/
• Helpline for National Domestic Abuse (run by Refuge): 0808 200 0247
Men’s Advice Line (MALE): 0808 801 0327
Galop Helpline (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people): 0800 999 5428
GOV.UK. (2020). Policy paper Domestic Abuse Bill 2020. Home Office. [online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-factsheets/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-overarching-factsheet