His Honour Judge John Platt: The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 Part I: Is It Working?

17 JUL 2008

His Honour Judge John Platt

Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 (the 1996 Act) sets out the basic legislative framework for the protection of victims of Domestic Violence in England and Wales. With very limited exceptions all family courts have jurisdiction to make both occupation and non-molestation orders. If the respondent has used or threatened violence, a power of arrest could be attached to relevant parts of the order. Following the decision of the President of the Family Division in Chechi v Bashir [1999] 2 FLR 489 it became effectively mandatory for the court to add a power of arrest to an order when the statutory conditions were satisfied.

In 2003, the Government decided to amend the 1996 Act in two important respects. The first was to make a breach of a non-molestation order a criminal offence. The second was to remove the court's power to add a power of arrest to non-molestation orders made under s 42 of the Act. The court would only be able to add a power of arrest to an occupation order made under ss 33-38 of the Act. The Government's declared intention was that the application of criminal sanctions on breach of a non-molestation order should be the preferred option. Applicants who wished breaches to be dealt with in the family court would have either to apply for a warrant for the arrest of the respondent under s 47(8) or apply for committal on notice to the respondent.

For the full article, see July [2008] Family Law journal.

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