Our parks, schools, restaurants and workplaces are amongst the long list of places closing following the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19. As we are advised to remain in our homes to protect our health, this can increase the risk of harm to those suffering from domestic abuse. The serious nature of being required to remain at home with a domestic abuse perpetrator cannot be underestimated.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse covers a wide range of behaviour and is broadly defined in Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 as a course of behaviour which is abusive towards the perpetrator’s partner or ex-partner. This must be considered objectively. In other words, a reasonable person must consider that the behaviour is likely to cause physical or psychological harm.
Examples of domestic abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Physical Abuse
- Psychological Abuse
- Financial Control
- Coercive Control
- Sexual Abuse
- Online abuse
What should I do if I think I am at risk?
Yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s advice was clear. If you are experiencing domestic abuse you should not wait to seek assistance. You can watch Nicola Sturgeon’s advice in full here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-scotland-52109752/coronavirus-don-t-wait-message-for-those-suffering-domestic-abuse
There are various civil remedies that the court can order to protect people who are experiencing domestic abuse, which include:
- Exclusion Orders – when the court orders the perpetrator is not permitted to enter the family home. Steps can be taken to achieve this even if the perpetrator owns the property.
- Interdicts – when a court orders that a perpetrator must not do something, for example, attend your place of work or remove your children from your care.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service are greatly reducing the day to day business they deal with in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However please be reassured that any urgent matters can still be dealt with through the court system. These urgent matters include applications for interdicts and exclusion orders.
At present there are stringent restrictions on our movements. In order to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 is spread amongst our community we are being asked to stay at home with a few minor exceptions. We understand that this causes serious issues for those experiencing domestic abuse as their ability to access legal advice is impeded.
Our specialist family law team are able to provide you with a discreet and confidential service which can be tailored to suit your personal circumstances. We offer various options in terms of how we communicate with you, for example, we can use email, conferencing facilities or you can telephone us during your daily outdoor exercise. We are flexible and we can adapt our service to ensure you are comfortable reaching out for support. Your safety is our priority.
If you are concerned about the risk you face as a result of the “Stay at Home” directions issued in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist family law team in whatever manner you feel comfortable with in order to discuss the options available to you. We will give you legal advice on your situation and we can also sign post you to other organisations who may be able to offer you further support.
If you find yourself in immediate danger phone Police Scotland on 999. If you are unable to speak freely, once you have dialled 999 you should then press 55. This will alert the call handler to this.
As everyone is aware the Covid-19 situation is evolving daily. The information contained in this blog is accordingly correct at the time of writing on 31st March 2020. If you require assistance please do not hesitate to contact us and we will give you up to the minute advice.