29th Jan 2024

Rise in Domestic Abuse Incidents: Not Such a Happy New Year

By Helen Greenfield

Rise in Domestic Abuse: Not Such a Happy New Year

 

FLiP Director Helen Greenfield comments on the rise in domestic abuse incidents following the Christmas period and leading into the new year.

The Christmas period typically sees a rise in domestic abuse incidents as a result of things such as financial stress, increased alcohol consumption and social isolation.  Difficulties are compounded for victims, with fewer opportunities to report abuse and limited avenues for seeking safety.

The Guardian reported just before Christmas that calls to helplines were still higher than pre pandemic levels, they suggested this was mainly because of the cost of living crisis.  The domestic abuse charity Refuge reported 171,490 calls in the year ending March 2023.

Around this time, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published the latest statistics from the Family Court for the quarter July to September 2023 which included figures for the number of applications for non molestation and occupation orders.  Depressingly, whilst the number of applications and number of orders made by the court had decreased a small amount compared to a year ago, the MoJ made it clear that “the overall picture highlights a longer-term increase in the number of applications, with the number, in the latest quarter almost double those made since the series [of statistics] began in 2011.” It isn’t clear whether this is because there is more domestic abuse or, perhaps more positively, that more victims are coming forward and feeling able to seek the protection of such orders.

Perhaps the most “un-festive” article of all, however, appeared in The Guardian just before the “big day”.  It described how “opportunists are targeting victims of domestic abuse by lying about their professional experience and charging them for legal and emotional help.” These scammers target vulnerable victims and, using the fact that, despite the rhetoric, there remains a significant lack of government funded support available, pretend to be domestic abuse consultants or therapists who charge below what might be considered standard rates. One website was flagged for example, which advertises online “training courses” to “prepare” victims for the family court for a fee of up to £250 with the help of “registered and trained therapists”.  These people were found to be neither registered nor trained and simply preying on people already struggling and vulnerable.

Finally, just as the New Year broke, Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, warned that the government’s policy to reduce the pressures on overcrowded prisons by scrapping short prison sentences will undoubtedly put victims at risk, by potentially allowing perpetrators to avoid a custodial sentence.  As proposed, under the government’s Sentencing Bill, judges will be asked to suspend sentences where they may otherwise have given jail terms of a year or less, except in exceptional circumstances which, it is understood, do not cover the perpetrators of domestic abuse. It is concerning that this Bill may only serve to further increase the statistics outlined at the beginning of this blog.

In terms of stopping or even reducing domestic abuse and its wider implications, 2024 has not started well.  However, it remains everyone’s responsibility and it is important that the ways of tackling domestic abuse and supporting the victims who suffer as a result continue to be developed and improved.

For more information on how Family Law in Partnership can help you if you are faced with domestic abuse, please visit our website page Abuse in Relationships below or contact director Helen Greenfield who focuses on this area of law on T: 020 7420 5000 or by email at hg@flip.co.uk