Greater Manchester Police are one of three forces nationwide piloting a Family Law scheme for victims of domestic violence. New powers include Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) issued initially by the police, and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) which are longer, magistrate endorsed sanctions.
Following the Crime and Security Act 2010, DVPNs give the police various powers to exclude from their home those suspected of committing domestic abuse, for up to 48 hours, if there is ‘reasonable suspicion’. During this time the suspect must appear before the magistrates who can then extend this to between 14 and 28 days. The pilot scheme is now in its second year and will end in July.
The main idea behind DVPNs is that they give victims extra time to consider their options, and consult a Family Law Solicitor. The recent cuts to the Family Law legal aid budget do not affect cases where there is an element of domestic abuse. However, now the scheme has been operating for some time, there is debate surrounding the practical consequences of these powers.
Family Solicitors are concerned that the initial, 2 day DVPNs are issued by the police in the absence of a judge, and that this draconian power excluding someone from their home may in fact be a breach of that person’s human rights. After all there is no opportunity initially for the alleged perpetrator to defend themselves if the police have ‘reasonable suspicion’, yet they may be entirely innocent. A DVPN may also force people to seek Legal Advice on related family law issues, such as property rights or the welfare of children, increasing the burden on already overstretched Family Courts and CAFCASS.
The lowest rank of officer permitted to issue a DVPN is Superintendant, to help ensure they are used properly. However, Home Office figures show that, in the first 5 months of the pilot in Greater Manchester alone, 100 DVPNs were issued by the police, whereas just 138 DVPOs were granted by the courts across all three pilot areas. The police appear more willing to issue DVPNs than the Courts are to grant DVPOs, further evidence perhaps of the human rights risks.
If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from domestic violence or abuse (whether physical, verbal or emotional) by a spouse, partner (or ex-partner) or other family member, please contact our team of expert Family Law Solicitors in confidence at email@example.com.