I need ongoing support
Money is often used as part of abuse. If you are experiencing financial or economic abuse, the following organisations can support you:
- Surviving Economic Abuse is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and transforming responses to it. The Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse (run in partnership by Surviving Economic Abuse and Money Advice Plus) is a service specialising in the financial side of domestic abuse. Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse can call for one-off advice regarding debts, benefits and budgeting from the Financial Support Line, or self-refer for ongoing casework on 0808 196 8845.
- Turn2Us is a national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially. Their Benefits Calculator can tell you which means-tested benefits you may be entitled to, including tax credits. Their Grants Search can help you look for funds that might be able to give you a grant or other types of help. Support is available through their helpline.
- Your bank may be able to support you. Many banks have domestic abuse policies set up to help. You can get in touch with your bank’s support team to see how they can help you take steps to protect your money.
If you have experienced financial abuse, and your perpetrator used finances as a form of control, you may not have experience managing money as it’s not been in your hands before. There are huge changes going on in your life, you’ve got a new financial set up and it will take time to understand how to manage it. You may feel overwhelmed; maybe you’ve recently given up your job for safety or you could be accessing benefits for the first time. If you’re living away from the abuse for the first time, you may have less household income or you might have access to your own money for the first time.
It’s okay if you’re feeling confused. Looking for support is an important first step.
You are now in control of your money and what you do with it. Whether your income is from a salary, state benefits or child maintenance, you’ll need to know what’s coming in, what’s going out and how to manage this. We’re here to help you do this.
Please be aware, the benefits system and money support can be very complicated, personal and changes regularly, so the information on this page is for general guidance only. To be sure that you are getting your full entitlements, you should go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other advice agency such as Turn2Us.
Once you have left the relationship and you are in a safe place, it’s a good time to think about your financial set-up. This can sound daunting but there a few simple things you can do to make sure you have safe access to your money.
- Do you have a joint bank account with your perpetrator? It will be safer to avoid using this (and any joint credit cards) until you can get financial advice from your bank. This is because the person who you share the account with will be able to track card activity or withdrawals from cash machines. This could make you unsafe. If you have regular payments going into this account, such as your salary, tax credits or child benefit, you will need to change these. When you’ve left and you are safe, speak with any companies paying into this account as soon as you can. You will need this money to be paid into your own account.
- Do you have your own bank account? If you have a bank account in your own name, it’s important that you are the only one who has access to this when you have left. If you use online banking, make sure you change your passwords so your perpetrator cannot access your accounts. Most banks will let you know when changes are made, you will be able to alert your bank if a change is made by someone else. You should also make sure your bank statements are addressed to you; no one else needs to see your bank statements, they contain your personal information. You could consider going paperless so physical statements will not be sent out to you.
- Do you need a bank account of your own? If you only have a joint account with your perpetrator or no bank account of your own, you might want to set up your own bank account. To set up a new bank account, you will need to have identification, like a driving license or passport, with you. It may be safer to use a new bank to avoid the possibility of any confusion or inadvertent leak of information by the bank. Your bank will be able to give you information on the type of account suitable for you.
Remember, it’s always useful to try to save a small amount of money for emergencies if you can.
Being a single parent for the first time can be especially tricky to navigate. The voluntary organisation Single Parents UK can support you, giving you advice on balancing work, parenting and education.
If you have children, it’s likely you will need to think about childcare arrangements and the cost of this. Childcare could be needed full time, after school or a mix of both, but you don’t have to pay for this alone. You can get financial support through the government’s child maintenance system. It’s a free service which provides impartial information and support. They help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements and ensure you are paid everything you are entitled to. You may also be able to get some help with childcare costs if you use a registered childminder, nursery or other childcare scheme run by an approved provider, and are claiming working tax credit. The government’s tax credits website can help you with this.
If you feel safe doing so, it’s a good idea to tell your employer what is happening and the changes going on in your life. This is both for your safety, in case your perpetrator tries to contact you at work, and so your employer can support you. Your employer should have a domestic abuse policy ready, which could entitle you to time off or additional support.
When you’ve left the abuse and are safe, it’s important you contact HM Revenue and Customs and tell them of your changed circumstances as you may be eligible for tax allowances or credits.
If you’re thinking about going back to work, it’s a good idea to consider what kind of work and how many hours you would like to do, particularly if you have children. You won’t always be better off financially if you get a job, though that may not be your only consideration.
Even if you’re working, there are various types of benefits that you may be entitled to.
Different types of benefits:
- Contributory benefits: These are based on previous National Insurance contributions and include non-means tested benefits, such as Job Seekers Allowance, which replace earnings; for example, when you are unable to work because of a disability.
- Non-contributory benefits: These are paid to people who meet certain criteria and who have been living in the UK for a specific period of time. They include Child Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.
- Means tested benefits: These are based on your income and your savings. They include Income Support and, in some cases, Job Seekers Allowance. These are not sufficient to live on long-term, but many women who have left abuse find themselves dependent on these for a while. It’s likely these will be essential in your recovery from abuse.
Citizens’ Advice Bureau give people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward – whoever they are, and whatever their problem. The national charity and network of local charities offer confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.
Turn2us is a national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially. Their benefits calculator can help you to calculate what you may be entitled to.
For full information about all state benefits, see the Department for Work and Pensions website, which gives information on all state benefits, alphabetically, and provides links to the website for Job Centre Plus when appropriate.
Many women who have experienced financial abuse are left with debt but there are steps to help relieve both debt and the associated stress. Legally, if a debt, loan or credit agreement is in your name, you are responsible for paying it. If any are in joint names, you may also still have a responsibility for outstanding debt, regardless of who spent it. However, the companies involved may be able to support you if you can contact them, explaining your situation. Some will have specialist abuse teams. They may be able to make arrangements to pay the money as you can afford it.
Different debts are treated in different ways and there is lots of advice on how to manage them.
- The National Debtline offer expert advice online via their webchat and over the phone on 0808 808 4000.
- Citizens Advice Bureau offer debt and money advice and may be able to negotiate with companies on payments on your behalf.
- The Financial Support Line on 0808 196 8845 is run by Surviving Economic Abuse and Money Advice Plus. They may be able to advise you on issues relating to debt.
It is better not to contact an advert for debt advice as they will often charge or take a percentage of repayments, which could cost you more overall.
If you have been left with arrears of rent or mortgage, your home could be at risk. If you had a joint tenancy with your abusive partner, both of you are legally liable for the arrears. If the tenancy was with a council or housing association, they may accept that – because of the abuse – you were unable to pay the rent at the time.
If you own a home or have joint savings with your perpetrator, you will need to decide how these are divided. If you were married, this can be done with the proceedings for legal separation or divorce. It will be useful to speak with a solicitor. Solicitors are experts in the law and how it affects you. They will be able to tell you all your rights, negotiate on your behalf so you don’t have to have contact with your perpetrator and keep your personal information confidential as all correspondence will go through them.
You can find a suitable solicitor through:
- The Law Society: the independent professional body for solicitors in England and Wales.
- Your local Citizens Advice Bureau: the national charity giving confidential advice online, over the phone and in person, for free. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may have access to BSL and multilingual interpreters.
- Your local domestic abuse service: they may have access to legal advice or know of solicitors in the area who have an understanding of domestic abuse.
If you are claiming welfare benefits, are on a low income or have little or no savings, you may be able to apply for public funding to pay your legal costs. You may be eligible to get free and confidential advice from Civil Legal Advice (CLA) as part of Legal Aid if you’re in England or Wales. They can be contacted on 0345 345 4345 or text ‘Legal Aid’ to 80010 for a call back. If you need an evidentiary letter for legal aid, your local domestic abuse service should be able to provide this.
Getting a restraining order or injunction
If you are frightened of your current or former partner, you have a right to be protected under the law.
There are various ways that the law can help you. This can feel overwhelming but there are often processes to help you deal with this.
As a survivor of abuse, you have rights under the criminal law. Being assaulted by someone you know or live with is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger, and often more dangerous.
As there is someone perpetrating abuse against you, you can apply for a civil court order. A court order can stop a perpetrator from harassing or hurting you by telling them to keep out of your home, or away from where you live.
Legal services and the law can also help to protect children by giving you emergency or temporary accommodation for your safety. You can apply to the Family Courts for an order specifying where and with whom the children should live and regulating contact with the other parent. A Family Court deals with legal issues which have come from family relations. They deal with cases relating to the upbringing of children, divorce and associated legal issues at the end of a relationship and support for children after relationship breakdown.
Domestic abuse is dealt with both under the criminal law and the civil law. The two systems are separate and are administered by separate courts.
- The civil law is mainly aimed at protection (or in some cases compensation). A survivor of domestic abuse can make an application for an injunction (a court order) either to the Family Proceedings Court or the County Court. This is usually done through a solicitor. Other family proceedings, such as child contact or divorce, also take place in the County Court.
- The criminal law is primarily aimed at punishing the offender, the person who has committed the abuse. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) initiate the process. Criminal cases are heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on how severe the charge is.
Legal support services
If you have a legal issue, you should seek proper legal advice. These organisations can support you:
Rights of Women run a Legal Advice Lines for women by women. Their advice lines cover family law, criminal law, immigration and asylum law and they have a specific line for women in London. Some lines have access to multilingual interpreters, and you can also get in touch using the NGT Lite Text Relay App.
Domestic Violence Assist are the UK’s only registered charity arranging Non-Molestation Orders, Prohibited Steps Orders & Occupation Orders. Call their freephone number on 0800 195 8699 or email [email protected]
Civil Legal Advice can help you find out if you’re eligible for Legal Aid at the government website.
Your local domestic abuse service may also be able to support you in finding local legal support and in ongoing emotional and practical support and may be able to refer you to local solicitors experienced in domestic abuse.
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) helps anyone to apply for an injunction within 24 hours of first contact (in most circumstances). Call freephone 0800 970 2070.
Southall Black Sisters provide advice and information on domestic violence, racial harassment, welfare and immigration, primarily for Asian, African and African-Caribbean women. Casework is primarily undertaken in London Borough of Ealing, but deals with enquiries on a national basis.
An injunction is a court order that requires someone to do or not to do something. If you are worried about your immediate or ongoing safety, you can apply for one to help you gain protection. It’s important to get legal advice and consider all your options before going ahead with legal action.
When considering an injunction, there are two main types available under Part 4 of the Family Law Act 1996: a non-molestation order and an occupation order. Each have different aims.
- A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing your partner or ex-partner, or other family member, from using or threatening violence against you or your child, intimidating, harassing or pestering you, in order to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of yourself and your children. If someone breaks the terms of their non-molestation order, known as a breach, it’s a criminal offence. You can report this to the police to take your abuser back to the criminal court, or start civil proceedings by applying to the court that made the order (usually the family or civil court).
- An occupation order regulates who can live in the family home, and can also restrict a perpetrator from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of the abuse but want to return and exclude the perpetrator, you may want to apply for an occupation order. You can apply for an occupation order if you own or rent the home and it is or was to be shared with your partner, family member or parent of your child; you don’t own or rent the home but you’re married to or in a civil partnership with the owner and you’re living in the home; or if your former partner is the owner or tenant and it was or was intended to be a shared home. The court will apply a “balance of harm” test when deciding whether to make the order. This will determine who will suffer the most if an order is not made. If you are applying for an occupation order and do not have a legal entitlement to occupy the property, the court must apply the “balance of harm” test. When making an occupation order, the court may make other related orders imposing obligations on you or your abuser. These could include repair and maintenance of the home, or payment of rent or mortgage.
To apply for an order, you must be an “associated person”.
This means you and your partner or ex-partner must be related or associated with each other in one of the following ways:
- Are or were married or engaged to be married.
- Are or were in a civil partnership or had agreed to form a civil partnership.
- Are or were living together (this includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples).
- Live or have lived in the same household, for example as a flat share (but not as a tenant, border, lodger or employee).
- Are relatives, including: parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews or first cousins (whether by blood, marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation).
- Have a child together.
- Have or had parental responsibility for the same child.
- Are parties to the same family proceedings for the same child.
- Are or were in an intimate personal relationship of significant duration e.g. six months, but they can be renewed or may be made “until further order”. Non-molestation orders can be extended but occupation orders can only be extended beyond 12 months if you have a legal right to stay in the home, for example if you are the owner or co-owner, tenant or joint tenant, or because you are or have been married to the owner/tenant.
When you have an injunction, you may have a power of arrest attached, and you can also have powers of arrest attached to an occupation order. These powers come into effect if your abuser breaks the order.
Understanding how to get legal support and the legal process for getting an injunction
You can apply for an injunction yourself but you may find it helpful to have legal advice. It is best to find a solicitor who has experience with domestic abuse cases as they are likely to understand all the issues.
How can I find a solicitor?
- Your local domestic abuse service may have access to legal advice, or be able to refer you to a solicitor who has experience of domestic violence issues.
- You could also contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence. They are a charity which provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence. You can call them for free on 0800 970 2070 for advice on getting an injunction.
- DV Assist can support you finding a solicitor, applying for legal aid, applying for court orders and in arranging non-molestation orders and occupation orders.
- The Law Society or the local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to give you a list of solicitors who can help with injunctions.
If you are claiming welfare benefits, are on a low income or have little to no savings, you may be eligible for public funding to pay your legal costs. It’s likely that this will be through Civil Legal Advice funding or legal aid. Your partner’s income is not taken into account if you are taking legal action against him.
What happens in court?
Applications for injunctions under the Family Law Act are held in the Family Court. The application will be in a closed court, known as “in chambers”. The only people allowed in are people directly related to your case.
This means that you will be able to bring your solicitor or other legal representative in, but you won’t usually be able to take in a friend or supporter, although they can stay in a waiting room. As it’s a closed court, no members of the public will be there so the hearing will be private.
If you think that the perpetrator could hassle you while you are waiting, tell your solicitor. They can ask the court officers to keep them away from you. They should also be able to provide separate waiting areas.
You can ask for your address to be kept secret and not read out in court so that the perpetrator does not know where you are staying.
How long does it take to get an injunction?
It can take one to two weeks to schedule the final hearing and get an injunction.
However, if you are in immediate danger, an application can be made to the court on the same day without your abuser being there. This is called a “without notice” or an ‘Ex-parte’ application.
To get this type of immediate injunction, the court will need to consider if:
- You are at risk of significant harm.
- You will be prevented or deterred from applying if you have to wait.
- The perpetrator is avoiding being served notice to appear before the court.
If the court grants a “without notice” order, you will have to return to court for a full hearing once the perpetrator has been served with notice.
If there are other family proceedings already in progress – for example, for a residence or contact order for a child – the court may want to hear the whole case together but they can still grant an emergency order while you are waiting for the full hearing.
Do I need to provide evidence?
You will need to tell the court about the abuse you have experienced, outlining both the physical and emotional abuse. This information is often known as a sworn statement or affidavit.
It may feel overwhelming, as retelling abuse can bring up difficult emotions, especially in court. It will help if you have kept a record of past events or if you have independent evidence, such as police reports or medical records. If you can, try to be as precise as possible about the abuse you experienced; whether it was emotional abuse or physical abuse, when it happened and the effects on you and your children. It’s important that you or your solicitor provides the court with as much evidence as possible, including all aspects of harm caused by the perpetrator’s abusive behaviour. The more information you can give the better. It means the court will be able to provide a more informed decision on the order.
The court has discretion when deciding to make an order and has to look at all the circumstances, including the likely effect of any order on the health, safety and wellbeing of you and your partner or ex-partner, your conduct in relation to each other, your needs and your financial and housing resources.
The court sometimes suggests that, instead of an injunction, the perpetrator should make an undertaking- a promise to the court not to harass or threaten you. This undertaking is meant to have the same strength as a court order, and a breach of an undertaking constitutes contempt of court, but in practice, undertakings may not be enforced as effectively as an injunction as powers of arrest cannot be attached.
If the perpetrator has used violence or threatened violence, the court should never accept an undertaking and you do not have to agree to accepting one if you do not want to.
Once an order has been made, you should have a copy and your solicitor should arrange for a printed copy to be handed personally to the perpetrator. The injunction will not be effective if there is no proof that they have received it.
Power of arrest
Breaching a non-molestation order is a criminal offence, so the police can arrest a person if they have reason to suspect them of being in breach of the order. Breaching an occupation order, however, is not a criminal offence unless a power of arrest has been attached by the court, usually if there is concern that the perpetrator has or may have used violence or threatened violence towards a survivor.
A copy of the order must be held on record at the police station. You or your solicitor should ensure this happens, and the police can arrest immediately if the order is broken, even without a specific criminal offence having been committed.
A power of arrest may be attached even if the hearing was held “without notice” if the court believes you are likely to be at risk of harm otherwise.
Occupation orders are slightly different, however, and a separate “power of arrest” will still be needed.
What happens if the perpetrator breaks the order?
If the perpetrator breaks the terms of the injunction, and you are fearful for your safety or that of others, you should call the police.
If a non-molestation order is breached, the police should arrest them and they are required to bring them back before the court within 24 hours. It is a criminal offence to breach a non-molestation order.
If there is no power of arrest attached to an occupation order, then you, with the help of your solicitor, may have to go back to court yourself and apply for an arrest warrant. The perpetrator is in contempt of court for disobeying a court order. This means they have been disrespectful towards a court of law; their behaviour has opposed the authority of the court. The court may fine them, impose a suspended sentence or commit them to prison, although this is rare for a first offence. The court is also likely to add a power of arrest to the injunction in order to strengthen it in future.
If you are unhappy about the enforcement process being taken out of your hands, it should still be possible for you to take the perpetrator back to the County Court or Family Proceedings Court for contempt of court.
Funding for legal action
An injunction application is free. If you need a barrister or solicitor to represent you this can cost money.
However, you may be eligible for Legal Aid to cover the cost of your lawyer. See Rights of Women Guide to Family Law Legal Aid for more information. Civil Legal Advice may also be able to help you to get free and confidential advice from Civil Legal Advice as part of legal aid.
A restraining order is a temporary court order issued to stop a person from carrying out a particular action. They often focus on stopping someone approaching or contacting a specific person, for example stopping a perpetrator from contacting a survivor. It’s different to an injunction; an injunction can put restrictions on someone before they’ve been charged with a criminal offence, but a restraining order is given at the end of a criminal case. However, it can be given whether the person was found guilty or not.
This means, if the court believes you are likely to be at risk from your perpetrator, the restraining order can be attached when criminal proceedings have been taken, even if the conviction has not been upheld.
A restraining order can provide the same protection as injunctions under the civil law but, as they come under criminal law, they can be more effective as they carry stronger penalties.
Action under the criminal law, coupled with restraining orders, may help you avoid the cost of taking civil legal action if you do not also need to apply for an injunction to exclude your abuser from your home.
Understanding the role of the police and the Criminal Prosecution Process
Most forms of domestic abuse are criminal offences, including coercive control. The police should be the first people you contact in an emergency by dialling 999. The non-emergency number for your local police is 101, regardless of your location. Being assaulted, sexually abused, threatened or harassed by someone you know or live with is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger, and is often more dangerous.
What can the police do?
If you are in immediate danger, always call 999.
If you call the police because you are experiencing domestic abuse, their immediate priority should be the safety and wellbeing of you and your children, and to protect everyone present from injury or further harm. They should give you the opportunity to be listened to and spoken to separately, away from your abuser.
In domestic abuse cases, the role of the police is to investigate. They are not there to mediate, counsel or allocate blame. There is a national domestic violence training programme for all police officers which aims to ensure that all police forces respond appropriately when called to domestic abuse incidents.
You can also ask to be seen by a female police officer (WPC). They should provide you with an interpreter if you need one and should never ask your children or other family members to interpret in cases of domestic abuse.
The police should help and support you by:
- Protecting you and your children
- Removing the risk of further violence – ideally by arresting and removing the perpetrator
- Arranging first aid or other medical assistance, such as an ambulance
- Finding out what has happened, taking into account the known risk factors associated with domestic abuse
- Offering you support and reassurance
- Helping you to access other agencies, like Women’s Aid
Domestic abuse should be treated as seriously as an assault or threat from a stranger. Police officers can use their powers to intervene, arrest, caution or charge an abuser.
What if the police arrest the perpetrator?
If there are reasonable grounds to justify an arrest, the police should do this without asking your permission or insisting on a statement from you first – though they will need to take one later. If the police arrest the perpetrator, it can demonstrate that the police take domestic abuse seriously and that abusive behaviour is unacceptable.
The police do not need a warrant to arrest someone who they suspect is about to commit an arrestable offence, nor do they need to witness an assault. The perpetrator can then be held for up to 24 hours (or 36 hours at weekends) before the police submit a charge.
If the perpetrator has left before the police arrive, the police should circulate a description and make every effort to find them. Officers should also gather evidence in order to charge and build a prosecution case that does not rely entirely on your statement. This could include photos of damage or injury. They should ensure that you and your children are safe while they do this. This may feel difficult to face but it’s an important stage as it could be used as proof later on.
If you do call out the police, and they take action against the perpetrator, ask them for the crime reference number and make note of it as this may be helpful in future. If your immigration status is insecure, a record of police attendance to an incident of domestic abuse might form part of your case to apply for leave to remain in the UK.
Arrest does not necessarily lead to a charge. A charge means the police have formally accused the person of committing a crime. Once someone is charged with an offence they can be taken to court, have a hearing and be sentenced. If the police decide to proceed, they will consult the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the charge and will then pass the papers to the CPS who will make the final decision to continue with a prosecution.
What if the police charge the perpetrator?
If the police arrest and charge the perpetrator, they will then decide whether to keep them in custody or to release them on bail. If they release them on bail, they will attach conditions to this, aimed at protecting you, your children and any witnesses from further intimidation and violence. The police should make every effort to consult you before making conditional bail decisions. They should also inform you of any conditions, what these conditions mean and what action you should take if these conditions are broken. They should give you as much information as possible and should explain that the responsibility for complying with police bail conditions rests with the perpetrator.
Prosecuting a perpetrator does not always guarantee your protection or safety in the long term. In some cases, it can increase your risk of harm as the perpetrator of abuse may use the involvement of the police as an excuse to further escalate abuse. Even though you may find the process difficult, emotionally and practically, it is worth considering all of the options and processes to help you reach a safer future.
What if the police don’t charge the perpetrator?
This can be difficult to deal with. If you need to speak with someone, our trained support workers are here for you and ready to support you on the Women’s Aid Live Chat.
For ongoing support and safety advice, you could get in touch with your local domestic abuse service. They may be able to offer help, such as putting in safety measures such, additional locks on your home or CCTV.
The police should also offer further options to keep you safe and should explain the outcome of the case to you. The case could end in a few different ways, including:
- Being released on bail, there are lots of different bail conditions which may be issued. For example, the perpetrator may have to live at a certain address or report to the police station on a certain date.
- Being released under investigation, this means the police believe that a criminal offence has been committed but they don’t have enough evidence to charge the perpetrator. The police cannot hold the perpetrator in custody while they carry out more investigations.
- Releasing with no further action (NFA), meaning there is not enough evidence to charge and no further action will be taken.
Domestic Abuse Protection Orders
Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) can be put in place by the police or magistrates to give immediate protection to a survivor of abuse following an incident of domestic violence, giving time to consider the next steps.
When a DVPO is in place, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the survivor for up to 28 days, allowing them time to consider their options and get the support they need. However, the power of a DVPO is limited, as breaching it is not a criminal offence.
Further information on police services
Most police forces have a specialist team to provide ongoing follow-up, investigation and risk assessment on domestic abuse incidents called Domestic Violence Units, Community Safety Units or Public Protection Units. These teams have been specially trained to respond sensitively, to give you guidance and to use their knowledge of domestic abuse offending to advise you during the investigation and prosecution processes. If you are reporting past or historical abuse, you can report this to the Domestic Abuse Investigations Team (DAIT). However, it’s important to be aware that the laws at the time of past abuse may be different to today’s and this can affect any charges given.
Each police force in the UK has its own website which you can find via the UK Police Service Portal. These give information on how they respond to domestic abuse incidents and what you can expect if you report an incident to them.
Some police forces use a risk assessment tool to help them identify who is at greatest risk of further harm from the perpetrator. That means that they may ask you questions which may not seem directly related to this offence but will help them decide the extent to which you may be at risk of further abuse.
Some police forces now share information with other agencies, such as health visitors or social workers, in order to help provide support and protection to women and children most at risk of further domestic abuse.
If you are unhappy with the way the police responded to you, each police force will have a domestic abuse policy, strategy or guidelines that you could check.
If you are unhappy with the way the police have treated you, you can make a formal complaint. You could do this through the Independent Office for Police Conduct or your local Women’s Aid organisation or independent domestic violence advocacy service could be able to help you with this.
Crime prevention officers should be available to help survivors of domestic abuse to suggest improvements to home security, including advice on smoke alarms, burglar alarms and improved lighting.
What does the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) do?
The CPS decides which cases should be prosecuted. In serious cases, they can determine the appropriate charges and advise the police during the early stages of investigations. They should always take the safety of the victim and their children into account. They also take the views of the victim into consideration when deciding whether to proceed with a prosecution, but it’s important to know that this will not be the only determining factor.
When would the CPS get involved in a domestic abuse case?
Once a perpetrator of abuse has been arrested and charged, the file can be passed to the CPS. The police and the CPS will have agreed charging standards for certain types of offence, including assaults. These guidelines aim to ensure that consistent decisions are made in relation to charging.
Police custody officers should liaise with the CPS at an early stage for advice on the sufficiency of the evidence, type of evidence required and the most appropriate charge(/s). Custody officers should ensure that all advice given by the CPS is recorded on the prosecution file.
Investigators are encouraged to seek Early Advice from the CPS in serious, sensitive or complex domestic abuse cases so that crown prosecutors will be available to provide advice to the police, prior to charging.
What if I want to withdraw my support for a prosecution?
You are allowed to withdraw your support for prosecution but the CPS will want to know why. Often, a police domestic violence officer will interview a survivor to try to find out why you are wanting to make this decision, and to assess whether pressure has been put on you to withdraw your original support.
There are several reasons why you might want to withdraw your complaint of domestic abuse:
- You don’t want your children’s father to have a criminal record
- You’re worried that a police record will mean the perpetrator will lose their job
- You may have been threatened, and/or you feel frightened about what the perpetrator or their family might do if you proceed
- You don’t want to give evidence in court
- The perpetrator has said sorry.
In certain circumstances, for example, if you have been intimidated, your statement can be used as evidence without you being called to court.
If you do decide to withdraw your statement, your wishes will be taken into account but the final decision about prosecution will be taken by the CPS in conjunction with the police. They may decide that the “public interest” supports going ahead with the case, despite your wishes.
If you are considering withdrawing, Women’s Aid is always here to support you and talk about your options. It may help to speak with someone who understands what you are experiencing and the difficulties it can cause. You can reach out to an expert support worker through our Live Chat service.
What happens after a withdrawal?
If the CPS decides to proceed with the withdrawal, the abuser will initially be taken to a Magistrates’ Court, after which (depending on the seriousness of the charge), they will either be remanded in custody or released on bail. If bail is given, then conditions can be imposed by the court. This could include conditions such as the perpetrator must stay away from you and your home, your place of work, or that they live at a certain address.
If the CPS decides not to prosecute, you have a right to know why and to ask them to review the case.
How do I provide evidence and what information is relevant?
It may be several months before the full case is heard and the police may contact you again for further information during this time. You may be asked to make a “victim personal statement”, which will add to the information you have already given in your initial statement.
This gives you a chance to talk about how the abuse has affected you, both this particular incident and in general, and to raise concerns about fear of intimidation, and whether you want to claim compensation or request support from other agencies.
Any additional evidence you can give the police at this stage will be very helpful.
Evidence can include:
- Medical reports of injuries and other effects of the abuse
- Statements from neighbours who have witnessed or heard the abuse
- Names of any other agencies to whom you have reported the abuse in the past- this could include social services, your health visitor, GP or midwife
- Reports from the children’s schools on the effects on the children
- Any injunctions that are in place against the perpetrator or that you have applied for previously
- Any particular fears you have
- Threats the perpetrator has made
Depending on the charge, the case may be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. You will only be called to give evidence if the perpetrator has pleaded not guilty at the initial hearing.
If the perpetrator pleads guilty, or is found guilty after the evidence is heard, then the court will usually adjourn for reports from the Probation Service before sentencing.
What can I expect if they are sentenced?
A perpetrator’s sentence depends on the seriousness of the offence and whether they have had any previous convictions. It can range from a conditional discharge (meaning they are released, the offence is registered but no further action is taken unless they commit a further offence within a certain time period), to a prison sentence.
The criminal law can offer you some protection, particularly if the perpetrator is given a custodial sentence, but it is primarily aimed at dealing with the offender.
A restraining order can be attached whenever criminal proceedings have been taken against your abuser, even if the conviction has not been upheld, if the court believes you are at risk.
You could consider applying for an injunction if a restraining order is not granted by the criminal court.
Domestic violence courts
In some areas there are specialist domestic violence courts in which the staff will have been specifically trained to deal with the issues and will try to “fast track” criminal domestic violence cases.
These specialist courts should also enable better partnership working between the various agencies. More specialist domestic violence courts are being set up and, if you live in one of the areas covered by them, it should make it easier for you to support your complaint and to give evidence in court if you need to.
Lots of local domestic abuse services have access to Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Services (IDVAs) and other support. If there is a domestic violence advocacy service in your area, it may help you to decide what to do, and will support you through the court process, if you choose that option.
I need more support throughout the prosecution process
For help and support with going through the prosecution process, there are a few different services that can help you.
- You can contact a specialist domestic violence advocacy service, which may be part of your local domestic abuse service.
- Specialist domestic abuse officers should help you in safety planning, taking into account risk assessment and risk management processes. They should be available to give you advice on additional safety measures that you or others could put in place, building on measures that you have already developed. To find the police force covering your area, visit the UK Police Service portal or call the non-emergency number, 101, which will put you through.
- You could also contact Victim Support who are separate from the police. They can offer free, confidential advice after a crime has been committed. Volunteers from Victim Support can provide emotional support and help you explore the different options open to you. If you go to court, the Victim Support Witness Service should support you, including giving you information about the court and prosecution process. They can sit with you in the waiting room and when you are called to give evidence. You can call the Supportline on 0808 168 9111, or get in touch via live chat (both open 24/7). You can also contact Victim Support in BSL using the SignLive app or website, and they also offer support in many languages.
- The Home Office can offer information on going to court and court proceedings.
- The Crown Prosecution Service’s website offers more information on prosecutions, particularly on how decisions are reached.
Clare’s Law, also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), allows women who are concerned about possible abusive behaviour to request information about their partner from the police. A close friend or family member can also apply if they believe someone is at risk of abuse.
You can make a request under Clare’s Law by finding and contacting your local police service, calling the non-emergency number 101, or by visiting your local police station. The maximum time to complete the whole process is 35 days.
Once an application has been made, the police will carry out a range of checks along with other partner agencies, such as the probation service, prison service or social services. If there is a record of violent or abusive offences, or if the police feel there is a risk of abuse or violence, they will consider sharing this information with you. A person’s previous convictions are treated as confidential, and the information will only be disclosed if it is lawful and proportionate, and there is a pressing need to make the disclosure to prevent further crime.
If the checks do not show that there is a pressing need to make a disclosure to prevent further crime, the police will tell you that. This may be because your partner or potential partner does not have a record of abusive offences or there is no information held to indicate they pose a risk of harm to you. If this is the case, it does not mean they are not showing worrying behaviour and what your experiencing is not domestic abuse.