HM Insights

Tackling domestic abuse and self-isolation

If you wish to discuss your circumstances with one of our family law solicitors please call 0141 227 9545 or submit an online enquiry by clicking on the below link.

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We live in unprecedented times. We know that vulnerable individuals with underlying health issues are at risk if they contract the coronavirus. Governments across the world have introduced various measures in an attempt to contain the spread, most notably self-isolation. Unfortunately, the benefits that self-isolation do bring additional problems for other individuals in society who may be at risk, such as those who are the victims of domestic abuse.

Self-isolation creates a restricted environment which victims can feel trapped within, without the ability to seek usual routes of safety and security. Therefore being quarantined with an abusive partner creates significant risks to vulnerable individuals and children. Statistics have shown that there has been a dramatic rise in domestic abuse in China during the lockdown.

Despite the ongoing global emergency, the police and courts in Scotland continue to take a firm approach towards preventing domestic abuse. The courts are treating protective orders which are mentioned below as 'urgent cases' and they will therefore continue to be heard by a Sheriff at short notice.

What is domestic abuse?

The term 'domestic abuse' is given to describe a form of inappropriate behaviour between two individuals who are or may have been in a relationship with one another. There is a misconception that domestic abuse involves physical harm being inflicted from one person to another. Domestic abuse can in fact take several forms including physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse being inflicted on an individual. Abuse is legally defined as violence, harassment, threatening conduct and any other conduct giving rise to physical or mental injury, fear, alarm or distress. Conduct can include speech and mere presence in a specific location.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 makes it a criminal offence for a person to engage in a course of behaviour which is abusive towards that person's partner or ex-partner. The law covers not only married couples, civil partners and cohabitants who live together but also people in intimate personal relationship who do not live together. As well as physical abuse, it covers psychological abuse and coercive control.

What type of behaviour is considered abusive?

Domestic abuse is usually a persistent and controlling behaviour causing physical or emotional harm. Often and unfortunately, the longer domestic abuse persists, the more severe the behaviour may become over time. Irrespective of the form in which domestic abuse may present itself, it is entirely unacceptable.

More specifically, it includes behaviour which is violent threatening or intimidating and behaviour that is designed to have one or more of the following effects on the victim or would be considered by a reasonable person to be likely to have one or more of the following effects:

  1. Making them dependent on or subordinate to the perpetrator
  2. Isolating them from their friends, relatives or other sources of support
  3. Controlling, regulating or monitoring their day to day activities
  4. Depriving them of, or restricting their freedom of action
  5. Frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing them

The above could include for example preventing the victim having access to money or from having access to their phone or other forms of communication. Further it could include controlling the victim's movements; abusive name calling and playing mind games with the victim that cause them to doubt their sanity. Complaints can be made to the police who will investigate matters and take appropriate action. Often abusers will be charged and subject to bail conditions preventing them from approaching the victim.

What can the Civil Courts do to protect me from domestic abuse?

If the police have insufficient evidence to charge an abuser with a criminal offence, this does not prevent victims from seeking protection through the civil courts. With assistance from a Family Law Solicitor, the law in Scotland offers a number of remedies as court orders to victims of domestic abuse in order to protect them or their children from the future risk of abuse. In Scotland, it is possible to seek the following protective remedies as court orders:

Exclusion Orders – An Exclusion Order, once granted, suspends the occupancy rights of the abuser and thereafter prevents them from returning to live in the family home, despite having occupancy rights to live in the property if they wish to do so. Spouses and Civil Partners automatically have occupancy rights regardless whether they are a title holder or not. An Exclusion Order, to be effective, must be combined with other orders including a Warrant for Summary Ejection and an Interdict preventing the abuser from entering or remaining in the property.

Common Law Interdicts – An Interdict is an Order whereby the court stipulates that an individual is to refrain from carrying out a specified action or behaviour. For example a victim of domestic abuse could ask the Court to interdict their partner from approaching them or coming within a certain distance of the family home.

Powers of Arrest A Power of Arrest is an order that is usually sought together with Interdicts and Exclusion Orders. The benefit in obtaining a Power of Arrest is that it will result in the Police being able to automatically arrest an individual if they have breached the terms of the protective remedy which has been granted.

Matrimonial Interdicts – A Matrimonial Interdict is an Interdict that restrains or prohibits any conduct of one spouse towards the other spouse or child of the family. This may include prohibiting a spouse from entering a family home or any other residence of the victim, the victim's work place or any school the child may attend.

Domestic Interdicts – A Domestic Interdict is effectively the same as a Matrimonial Interdict but applies to two people who may be living together as cohabitants and are therefore not married.

Non Harassment Orders A Non-Harassment Order is designed to protect a victim from a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and causes the victim alarm and distress. Examples of such conduct may include frequent phone calls or repeated text or social media messages. A breach of a Non-Harassment Order is a criminal offence and can result in monetary fine or imprisonment. 

What should I do if I am experiencing domestic abuse?

1. Speak to a Family Law Solicitor

A Solicitor practising or specialising in Family Law will be able to assist you take swift and immediate steps to protect you and your family from abuse. Call 0141 227 95 45 to speak to one of our Solicitors.  

2. Consider reporting matters to Police Scotland

The police can take immediate intervention steps to protect you and your family. If you or your children are at an immediate risk of harm the police should be contacted. Dial 101 if it is not an emergency and 999 in the event of an emergency.https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/advice-for-victims-of-crime/domestic-abuse/

3. Seek support from friends and family

Speak to a support organisation:

For Men

  1. Scotland's Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline - 24 hour service – 0800 027 1234
  2.  Abused Men in Scotland – 08088 000 024
  3.  Victim Support Scotland – 0800 160 1985
  4.  Rape Crisis Scotland – 0808 8010 302

For Women

  1. Scotland's Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline - 24 hour service – 0800 027 1234
  2.  Scottish Women's Aid – 0131 226 6606
  3.  Rape Crisis Scotland – 0808 8010 302
  4.  Scottish Women's Rights Centre – 0808 8010 789

Get in touch

If you require advice on options available in circumstances involving domestic abuse, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our family law team by telephone or by submitting an online enquiry for a confidential and free chat. Call 0141 227 9545 to speak to one of our Solicitors.