While abuse can be a difficult subject to talk about, in this blog post we wanted to share some further information on what options you have to keep yourself safe and out of such a negative situation.
Or you may have been unjustly served a non-molestation order and want to know what you can do about it.
So what exactly is a non-molestation order? Essentially, it is an injunction that dictates and insists that one party does not harass or threaten the other in terms of their actions or have anyone else do so.
We also have further details on our useful information page on non-molestation orders.
Applying for a non-molestation order
You can apply for a non-molestation order if you may have been the victim of domestic violence, and if you’d like to be protected from the person who hurt you or you are being harassed or threatened. This person might be your partner from a current or previous relationship, a family member, someone you live with, or someone you have lived with in the past (please note that if you’re under 16, you will need permission from the High Court in order to apply for a non-molestation order).
Your application form should additionally have a witness statement containing the allegations against the other party and there should be a draft order provided for the court.
Non-molestation orders can be made without the person in question’s knowledge – this is called without notice (ex-parte). Courts treat these kinds of cases with the highest of care, but will often make a non-molestation order based only on the information that an applicant has provided. However, these are severe orders with serious consequences if breached. The court has a duty to ensure as best it can that a non-molestation order is necessary before making such, so it may not make a non-molestation order until it has heard from both parties. An occupation order may also be relevant in these kinds of cases – take a look at our useful information page for more information on occupation orders.
What happens if a non-molestation order is breached?
Understandably, victims of abuse may be afraid of the person they have applied for a non-molestation order against and so are keen to make sure that this order isn’t broken in any way. The breach of a non-molestation order or injunction is actually a criminal offence, and carries a possible prison sentence of up to five years. After an order is breached the perpetrator could be arrested and criminal charges may follow.
What about return hearings?
A non-molestation order doesn’t come into effect until it has been served to the respondent. A return hearing may then be arranged for the court to hear the arguments being made against the non-molestation order.
If you believe that you have been unjustly served a non-molestation order it is important to attend this hearing. Depending on the allegations and the time available you could provide a statement with supporting evidence in response to the applicant’s allegations within their statement. However, this is often not possible and will have to be provided after this hearing if ordered by the court.
Once the court hears both sides, it may keep the non-molestation order in place or discharge, vary or extend the non-molestation order. This may be at the return hearing or at a fully contested hearing at a later date where all the evidence can be scrutinised by the court.
Sometimes, at the return hearing the non-molestation order will be dismissed in favour of an undertaking –which is a formal promise to the court, when both parties are present. This may be more suitable when the person in question doesn’t agree with what has been set out against them and the allegations are not deemed too serious. In the same way, cross-undertakings – when both parties agree that they won’t commit any act against each other – are quite common and can be a good way to settle things. However, breaching an undertaking to the court carries the same penalties as breaching a non-molestation order, so it’s important that both parties are clear on what’s expected and stick to their agreed terms.