Pump Court Chambers

Domestic abuse during Covid-19 times

Blog 18th May 2020
Cordelia Williams

Domestic abuse was a problem already in urgent need of addressing pre-pandemic. The global crisis we are now experiencing has only worsened that issue. Widely-reported statistics include:

  • Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a consistent increase in demand of 50% since lockdown measures announced (4th May press release)
  • Traffic to many prominent domestic abuse websites has reportedly tripled during lockdown.
  • In the first 4 weeks of lockdown, 13 women and 4 children are believed to have been killed by men whilst shut inside their homes. This is double the (already awful) average of 2 women each week. (Stats for England and Wales)
  • Met Police: The number of recorded domestic abuse incidents has seen a year-on-year rise – there were 17,275 incidents recorded between 9 March and 19 April 2020; a 9% increase on the same period in 2019.

With no clear end in sight to Covid-19 restrictions, seeing these statistics jump up so quickly after the restrictions began is concerning and frightening, but perhaps should not be surprising. We know too that these statistics likely only represent a fraction of abuse happening, as many victims are unable to seek help.

With the current restrictions in England still necessitating social isolation, it is vital that clients know there is not a total prohibition against leaving the home. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 set out situations in which an individual would have a “reasonable excuse” for leaving home. These include to access critical public services, e.g. domestic abuse services for victims, and to avoid injury/illness or to escape a risk of harm. The Police are still working and are still arresting perpetrators.


The family courts are still open

Some victims are confused by the language of ‘lockdown’/’quarantine’, and assume family lawyers and the courts are closed. This is not the case. Urgent applications, including applications for injunctions, are still being heard. Emergency court orders are available – orders can sometimes be obtained very quickly after contacting a specialist family solicitor or direct access barrister.

Judges are hearing cases via online telephone and video calls – using Skype and Zoom etc. Court-based hearings (in person) can still take place where necessary for the fairness of the case and it is safe to conduct them.

Our clients need to know that barristers are there to support and represent them remotely.


If you are suffering domestic abuse you may seek the following orders (amongst others):

  1. Non-molestation order: this can protect you and any relevant child. You can obtain a non-molestation order against someone who has been physically violent or against someone who is harassing, intimidating or pestering you. You can apply for a non-molestation order even if you still want to (or have to) live with your abuser.
  2. Occupation order: this can order an alleged abuser to move out of the home or to stay away from the home, to keep a certain distance away from the home, to stay in certain parts of the home at certain times, or allow you back into the home if you have been locked out.

You must be an ‘associated person’ to apply to the court for either of the above orders. If you live in the same household as the alleged abuser you will be considered ‘associated’.


Recommended Resources

If you, or someone you know, are in need of advice or representation, please contact our clerks. Pump Court barristers are currently offering a 30 minute introductory conference free of charge and reduced rates for representation at hearings. If you’re a solicitor and wish to enquire about this, please click here or contact our clerks on 020 7353 0711.

If you are concerned about the safety or yourself or a child, you should contact your local authority or the Police immediately.

This article Domestic abuse during Covid-19 times was written by Cordelia Williams. To enquire about instructing Cordelia or another member of our Domestic Violence Team, please contact the clerks.

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