Many people are asking for advice in relation to a new type of order that is being applied for in the Magistrates Court. They are called Domestic Violence Prevention Orders and came into force in late 2014. There is concern that the orders are being imposed upon individuals without them having been convicted or even charged with criminal offences.
The police can apply for the orders to a Magistrates Court which, if successful, the defendant can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days. Quite often the police make the application against the wishes of the alleged victim.
Furthermore, the consequences of breaching such an order are potentially severe. The sentencing options of the court are limited to either a fine or custody for up to 2 months. In Liverpool Magistrates Court, defendants are being sentenced to short custodial sentences even where they have no previous criminal convictions.
Whilst there is no doubt that in some cases such orders are necessary to prevent violence within the home from occurring, in my experience there are many flaws with the current orders. Applications that are being made against the wishes of the perceived victims are potentially affecting both parties right's to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Furthermore, questions need to be asked whether these orders actually work to address the issues within the home. Separating the parties will of course prevent violence from occurring for what is a relatively short period of time but it does nothing to address the long standing issues within a volatile relationship. Long-term issues that are usually present within a volatile relationship such as alcohol or substance abuse, anger management, stress or jealousy. It's difficult to see how the 28 day separation period addresses any of these issues, in some cases, arguably it would aggravate them.
In terms of sentence the limited options available to the court (which are effectively a fine or custody for breaching the order) also appears to be draconian as people are being sentenced to immediate custody even when they have no previous criminal convictions. So therefore there is no option available for intervention or assistance from the probation service to address the underlying issues that are causing the problems in the first place.
If there was an option of a community order then probation could assist in successfully rehabilitating offenders by means of domestic violence programmes and anger management. This would seem to make more sense than handing out short custodial sentences which do not address the underlying issues.