If you believe you have been the victim of domestic violence, the Court holds the necessary powers to protect you from further harm. The Court has the right to issue to an Order against someone to either compel them to do something or prohibit them from doing something. Therefore, if you successfully obtain an Order against someone for their violent or harassing behaviour, they will be legally obliged to cease the behaviour in question.
Such Orders are issued for your protection in the most appropriate way. What the Court deems to be a suitable level of protection depends on numerous factors, including:
• Your relationship with the violent person e.g. cohabite, spouse, family member
• The history and nature of the relationship with the violent person
• What your rights are to the property specified in the Order
Court Orders against domestic violence or harassment commonly require the violent person to:
• Stop using or threatening to use violence against you or a child
• Stop interfering, pestering or harassing you or a child
• Leave a property
• Stay away from a property
• Stay out of a specified area
• Allow you onto a property without attempting to eject them
It is very likely that if you are a spouse or cohabitee, you will successfully obtain an order for both your personal protection and remaining in the home. However, relatives and cohabitants will generally receive Orders for their personal protection as well.
If you need to obtain an Order you will need to make an application to Court and we advise that you instruct a family law solicitor to help you with this. Your solicitor will then be able to represent you at the Court hearing where both you and the accused will be given the chance to give your version of events. The Court will read your Sworn Statement (your version of events and why you feel you need an Order) before hearing your opponent’s side of the story. The Judge will then decide whether or not a Court Order is appropriate.
How does the Order Work?
The Order is a simple document but it carries formal legal weight. In order to be legally binding, the Order must be “served” against the intended recipient so that they are aware of the terms and can respond accordingly.
Should any terms be ignored having been served the Order, that person will have breached the Order which is likely to lead to a punishment from the Court (depending on the nature of the breach).
If the Order is breached, you can make it enforceable by applying to the Court for “committal proceedings”. Certain types of Court Order if breached can result in hefty financial penalties or even imprisonment.
Domestic Violence: Emergency Court Orders and Power of Arrest
If you are being subjected to domestic violence or harassment, you may not feel that you have time to pursue the normal course of action for seeking a Court Order. In such emergencies, the Court might be able to holding a hearing much sooner than usual and a good solicitor may be able to find a Judge immediately. The Judge will need to decide whether or not your word serves as sufficient proof for the need of an emergency Order.
Such an Order will generally be short term and another, more enduring Order may need to be applied for. Legal aid from the Legal Services Commission is likely to be available in these emergency cases.
The Court’s Power of Arrest
If the Court adds the power of arrest to an Order, the Police will be able to arrest the Order’s subject should they breach it. If the order is being breached or has just been breached, you should contact the police straight away so that they can arrest the person. It is crucial that the police are aware of the power to arrest in that case so that they are aware of their power to arrest. Your family solicitor will be able to able to send then a copy.
If arrested, the Order’s subject will probably be charged with a civil rather than a criminal offence and will therefore appear in the civil Court. The accused should appear in Court the next day when the Judge will determine whether or not the Order has been breached and what the appropriate penalty is. This penalty may require the accused to remain in custody but this it at the Judge’s discretion.