Domestic violence and coronavirus: using injunctions during the lockdown
20 April 2020
The risks to victims of domestic violence (many of whom are left with no option other than to share accommodation with their perpetrators during the COVID-19 lockdown) has quickly become a serious concern in these times.
The grounds for possession for domestic violence for assured and secure tenants (Housing Act 1988 ground 14A and Housing Act 1985 ground 2A respectively) aren’t of any practical use, not least because they rely on a victim leaving a property before they are engaged and any notice seeking possession must now give an extended period of three months’ notice before possession action can commence.
The remedies under the Family Law Act 1996 (non-molestation orders and occupation orders) continue to be available to victims of domestic violence and any victim might consider consulting with a family lawyer, who will be able to advise on obtaining one of these remedies.
Often, however, a victim does not have the ability to obtain a non-molestation order or an occupation order and the domestic violence (as well as having a serious impact on the well-being of the victim) has an impact on the housing management functions of a housing association.
If this is the case then it is important for housing associations to bear in mind that injunctions under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the Act”) are still available and the courts have categorised cases of this nature as a priority, meaning they will be dealt with by the courts during any lockdown period and the courts will expect the police to support them in enforcing breaches, such as by using a power of arrest and bringing a perpetrator before a county court judge within 24 hours of arrest.
The scope of an injunction under the Act is widely cast and can cover prohibitions on contacting a victim and / or using or threatening to use violence against a victim, as well as the much more draconian remedy of an exclusion order, barring a perpetrator from entering a property or a locality.
It will also assist housing associations to take note of a very helpful piece of guidance published by the House of Commons Library on this topic offering guidance on the law more generally during the coronavirus crisis and also on the range of support available to victims and how professionals in this area can assist victims in accessing support.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at April 2020.