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Domestic violence in lockdown and COVID-19

Living at home with a violent or controlling spouse or partner is difficult most of the time, but what happens when you are stuck in isolation with them?

The prime minister’s ‘stay at home’ message has been a challenge for many. People have been coping with isolation from their loved ones, or juggling home-schooling with working from home. However, adding an abusive or controlling partner into this scenario can only make matters worse for those subjected to the abuse.

So much so that domestic abuse charity Refuge said calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw an average 25% increase in the first two weeks of lockdown, rising to 49% after three weeks. And worryingly too, the number of people going to the national domestic abuse website rose by 150%.

Where the person being abused would formerly have had an ‘out’ by being able to go to work or see their friends and family, these visits have inevitably been curtailed by now-extended lockdown rules.

Your options

There is no excuse for domestic abuse.

First and foremost, you should always call 999 in an emergency, or if you or any children are in immediate danger.

In Scotland we are now allowed to leave the home for exercise more than once a day, so if you need to you can use that time to make contact with loved ones or the police if you fear for your safety.

You can also use the time out of your house to contact a solicitor to find out about your legal rights and options, including giving advice on removing the abusing partner from the home.

In Scotland, you can speak to your solicitor about an exclusion order, which is an order of the court preventing your spouse from entering the family home. You can also ask for advice on a domestic abuse interdict and having a power of arrest attached to that, which would mean your spouse or partner would be arrested if they breached the terms of the interdict.

An exclusion order or interdict with power of arrest would be an interim measure and would, for example, be used pending a divorce case being considered. The sheriff officer would serve papers and the police should be able to assist with the removal of the abuser.

Having these orders would presumably give some hope that the home could be a safe place for the foreseeable future and the courts in Scotland are allowing urgent orders to be granted, despite court business being ‘on-hold’ meantime.

For many abused people out there, telephone is not always the best method of communication and so our family law team can arrange your initial appointment by email and then adopt a method of communication most suited to your needs.

It is a criminal offence to abuse a partner or spouse. This covers not just physical abuse but also psychological and emotional treatment and coercive and controlling behaviour. If you think you are suffering from any of these behaviours at the hands of your spouse or partner, you should contact the police immediately.

Emma Somerville

Emma has a wealth of experience of appearing regularly in the sheriff court in both criminal, child and family cases. She assists clients, both in and out of court, with a wide range of other family matters, including separation; child residence and contact; cohabitation agreements; adoption; and divorce.

Posted, 11 May 2020 by Emma Somerville
Categories: Coronavirus | Coronavirus and family law | Family law | Insights | Private client