Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

There is no specific criminal offence of domestic violence but if someone is accusing you of any form of domestic abuse you should take it seriously and get legal help straight away. Whether or not you believe the claim to be true, you will no doubt be concerned about the allegation and what might happen.

Assault within a relationship happens amongst people of all backgrounds and ages and any reports will be taken very seriously by the police.  The Police and Prosecution operate a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to Domestic Violence which could lead to a loss of liberty if convicted.

What is the definition of domestic violence?

It is important to understand that the violence does not need to have occurred only between husband and wife or sexual partners. It also applies to the actions of family members such as siblings, grandparents, stepfamily members or former partners.

The conduct may have been a one-off event or an ongoing pattern of behaviour across several years. The violence does not need to have resulted in an injury or any harm to the victim for the defendant to be found guilty. Even threats of domestic violence can be prosecuted. The term domestic violence is used for physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Will I have to go to Court?

Anyone charged with domestic violence should expect to have to attend an initial hearing at their local magistrate’s court. Depending on the seriousness of the charge the case may then go to a full trial, in the Magistrates’ Court or at the Crown Court.  There may be an application by the Prosecution for a remand to be in custody. It can be difficult to get bail so it is a good idea to have an experienced lawyer at this stage who will help you to prepare your case and advise as to the appropriate plea. It is possible to get the charge dropped if it can be shown that it is unlikely that you would be convicted, and it is not in the public interest to prosecute you.

What are the penalties?

The penalty will depend on what the charge is. Normally, if someone is arrested for domestic violence the charge will be common assault, actual bodily harm, or grievous bodily harm, which is more serious. Penalties for domestic abuse include the following court orders and sentences:

  • Restraining orders – breaching a restraining order can lead to imprisonment.
  • Non-molestation orders (NMO) – if you were to breach an NMO you can face up to 5 years in prison.
  • 5 years or even life imprisonment, if found guilty of grievous bodily harm.

What are the possible defences?

The facts surrounding each case will have to be considered carefully. However, there are a number of mitigating factors that can help defendants avoid prosecution or prison. These include:

  • The charge is the result of false allegations made during an acrimonious separation.
  • The defendant acted in self-defence or in response to extreme provocation.
  • You could admit part of the alleged incident, but dispute other accusations.

Domestic abuse occurs among all ethnicities and age groups and is taken very seriously. Most situations are complex, highly emotive, and will have implications for the whole family. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offence, we suggest you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.

If you need help, contact [email protected] or call 0151 239 1020 for expert legal advice.