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GMB Calls for Action as New Figures Show Big Rise in Domestic Abuse Court Orders

Monday, November 6, 2017

 

Birmingham, London and Romford revealed as places with highest number of domestic abuse applications in union investigation.

GMB has called for urgent action after the union’s investigation revealed a significant increase in applications for domestic abuse court orders in England and Wales.

A Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice reveals 17.2 per cent jump in the number of people asking for non-molestation orders between 2012 and 2016. [1]

The figures also show for first time the number of applications made in different parts of the country.

These types of orders are only made in domestic violence cases. [see note 2 for domestic violence case studies from GMB members]

The most common protection is a non-molestation order which prohibits an individual from violent or abusive actions.

In 2012 there were 16,288 applications for such orders, which can apply to harassment and abuse in workplaces as well as homes. Applications for non-molestation orders increased to 19,087 in 2016 – a rise of 2,799.

The Midlands court region saw the biggest increase in all types of orders – a rise of 48%.

Domestic abuse is a serious workplace issue that will be discussed at GMB’s inaugural Women’s Conference, which begins tomorrow [November 6, 2017] in Liverpool.

Applications for civil orders have risen despite restrictions to legal aid in family law cases which were first introduced by Chris Grayling’s Legal Aid, Sentencing of Prisoners Act 2012 (LASPO).

Although exemptions were provided in domestic abuse cases, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee warned in 2015 that more than a third of victims were unable to provide the necessary evidence. [3]

GMB, the union for Legal Aid Agency workers, has long campaigned against restrictions on legal support for victims of domestic violence. [4]

Ann Lafferty, GMB National Officer, said:

“GMB has long recognised the damage caused by domestic violence.

“It destroys families, it hurts children, it poisons society and it places workers at risk.

“It knows no social boundaries and is often an issue of secrecy based on fear.

“It is terrible to find out see domestic violence rising so sharply – especially alongside reductions in resources provided to victims by local government and national barriers to accessing legal aid.

“And whilst rightly concerned about these statistics, GMB understands each incident reflects a personal tragedy such as that experienced by Miss X. [2]

“These are the reasons why GMB is doing all in its power to ensure that their workplace representatives are able to understand what victims of domestic violence go through, how best to support them and ensure they are safe at work.

“In its quest to do this GMB will cover the scourge of domestic violence at the National Women's Conference which is being held in Liverpool on November 5 and 6.”

ENDS

Contact: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or press.office@gmb.org.uk

Notes for editors

[1] There are two main forms of civil orders that victims of domestic abuse may apply for.

A Non-Molestation Order prohibits violent, threatening or harassing behaviour on the part of an individual. This type of order is most commonly applied for and awarded.

An Occupation Order guarantees access for a victim to their home or removes an individual from that home.

GMB has obtained a breakdown of applications for non-molestation and occupation orders by court region and individual court in England and Wales through Freedom of Information requests to the Ministry of Justice.

The figures show the courts that considered the highest number of non-molestation order applications in 2016:

1. Birmingham 1,062

2. Central Family Court 711

3. Romford 808

4. Wolverhampton 654

5. Bow 538

6. Manchester 498

7. Bradford 430

8. Stoke On Trent 182

9. Chelmsford 291

10. Coventry 301

For more information, please contact the GMB press office.

[2] Case studies on domestic violence from GMB members:

GMB Member Miss Y said:

“I was in a relationship for 14 years with my abuser and we had four children. The abuse which started early in the relationship, began with shouting, smashing things up in the house, name calling etc.

“Then when I was seven months pregnant an argument broke out while I was sitting in the bath.

“He hit me across the face with the back of his hand.

“I was so shocked and hurt, but he promised he would never do it again and I believed him.

“It just got worse; he put me in choke holds and even tried to strangle me.

“He told me many times I was worthless and a bad mom, because after my first child I had post natal depression.

“I stayed and never told anyone about the abuse as the years went on and my other children arrived and all I wanted was a family life for them.

“I used to hide it from my family and I never really had friends - I would never let people get close enough for fear they would see and know and the shame I would feel because he used to tell me it was me that made him do it because ‘I made him tick’ and ‘pushed his buttons’.

“You slowly stop being yourself you forget who you are.

“When I found the courage to leave him he stated texting me with abuse and constantly ringing my phone none stop for two hours making threats to me and my house.

“The following morning he came to my house banging the windows and doors and screaming up at the windows, so I did something I had never done I dialled 999 for the police.

“He jumped my fencing in the garden onto my roof to the bedroom window which he banged so loudly I thought the window was going to break. “He was arrested and charged with harassment.

“During that moment I have never felt so vulnerable I was now being labelled as a victim of domestic violence.

”He pleaded guilty and received 12 month community order no restraining order but it wasn’t long before the abuse started again so I called the police.

“Eventually an emergency non-molestation order granted which is still in place 12 months later.”

Another GMB Member, Miss X, who provided evidence for the conference said:

“I suffered serious physical and emotional abuse at the hands of my former partner. It was so bad I had to leave my job in childcare of ten years.

“On top of attacking me, he had started to make allegations about my conduct at work.

“I moved to a completely different part of the country and changed jobs.

“It wasn’t long before he tracked me to my home and workplace.

“After I told him to get lost, he went to the police and social services and told them I wasn’t able to care for my child.

“They took my child off me and made me move jobs again while I was being investigation.

“This meant less hours and less money, leaving me alone and desperate.

“Thanks to the support from GMB, all the allegations were dropped, I got my child and my old job back.”

[3] The Guardian, Third of domestic violence victims cannot provide evidence for legal aid, 12 March 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/12/third-of-domestic-violence-victims-cannot-provide-evidence-for-legal-aid

House of Commons Justice Select Committee, Impact of changes to civil legal aid under Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, 04 March 2015 (page 28): ‘We note with concern the evidence from the Rights of Women survey suggesting 39% of women who were victims of domestic violence had none of the forms of evidence required to qualify for legal aid. Any failure to ensure that victims of domestic violence can access legal aid means the Government is not achieving its declared objectives.’ https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmjust/311/311.pdf

[4] http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/legal-aid-for-domestic-violence-victims

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