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If you are living in a violent or other abusive relationship, and you don’t feel that leaving home is an option for you, then you can use the law to keep your partner away.  But you should know from the start that it’s not a straightforward or foolproof process.

  1. You can seek to get a safety order to prohibit your partner from acts or threats of violence and other intimidating behaviour, or you can seek a barring order, which does the same thing but also prevents your partner from entering the family home.
  2. Neither can be granted without a full court hearing where your partner can oppose your case, but the judge can grant an interim barring order or a protection order until that final hearing takes place, if the Judge believes it is necessary. The experience of domestic violence support services is that the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when her abuser finds out she’s planning to escape him. Its essential therefore that if you are considering this type of application, that you seek some form of temporary protective order, or that you have some other form of protection in place.
  3. Figures for 2011 show that less than half of all safety and barring orders were actually granted – although there is no breakdown of the reasons why.
  4. Lack of proper advice before making the application may be a factor. One factor which can lead to failure in court is lack of preparation. You may be in a distressed state and find it difficult to communicate your case to the judge – which puts you at a disadvantage. However, you may not feel you can afford a solicitor and there are long queues for Legal Aid in such cases.
  5. The latest statistics – for 2010 – show that there were 1,184 breaches of domestic violence orders, 909 of which ended up in court and just 317 of which resulted in a conviction. However, protective orders are effective, and in some cases necessary, to ensure the protection of you and your children. The courts take breaches very seriously, but often the circumstances surrounding the breach of the order, such as a partner being invited back into the home, or a temporary reconciliation, will avoid conviction. All of this is so understandable, particularly where there are children.

The basic advice has to be – if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, whether the abuse is physical, verbal, or emotional – seek advice. You don’t have to live like that.