Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (December 2017) reveal that between July and September 2017, there has been an overall increase in the number of applications issued involving domestic violence as well as an increase in the number of orders made.

Key points from the bulletin:

  • In July to September 2017, 65,247 new cases started in family courts, up 2% on the equivalent quarter in 2016. This was due to increases in domestic violence remedy order applications, private law applications and matrimonial matters (up 10% and 4% and 1% over the same period respectively).
  • The number of domestic violence remedy order applications increased by 10% compared with the equivalent quarter in 2016, whilst the number of orders made increased by 13% over the same period.

Source: Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, July to September 2017, Ministry of Justice. Published 14 December 2017.

The statistics show that for the period July to September 2017, a total of 7,446 domestic violence order were granted. This figure represents the highest quarterly figure in 8 years (the statistics were first compiled in 2009). This figure is against the backdrop of a huge proportion of domestic violence victims having to represent themselves in proceedings.

What has changed?

The rise in the number of both applications and orders made in relation to domestic abuse could be due to a number of factors. Undoubtedly, there has been drive on the legislative front to provide more protection for those in abusive relationships or households where domestic abuse is taking place. There has also been a commitment (whether on behalf of domestic abuse support groups or organisations such as the Family Law group, Resolution) to raise awareness of abuse in relationships. Ultimately, the purpose has been to encourage victims to come forward in the knowledge that a system is in place designed to protect them.

The re-definition and consequent widening of the term ‘domestic violence and abuse’ in 2015 has, in all likelihood, allowed and encouraged more victims to come forward. We are reminded that Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ in an intimate or family relationship. This new offence came into force on 29 December 2015 and is defined as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used by an individual to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.” Examples include exerting control over finances, preventing someone from seeing their friends and family and preventing them from going out.

It is hoped that developments in the law and a growing support network are giving victims the confidence they need to come forward and seek help from the justice system.

For more information about the legal issues arising from abuse in relationships, please click here or contact Family Law in Partnership director Helen Greenfield on 020 7420 5000 or by email at: