Last week the Oxford Mail very helpfully ran an article on how to get help with domestic violence in Oxfordshire. No doubt during this difficult time we will all have seen articles and news about an increase in domestic violence incidents during the lockdown. The Oxford Mail very helpfully gave details of Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse service helpline and other numbers.
Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Services – 0800 7310 055
But what other legal protection can a victim obtain?
Currently, victims may well wonder whether it is even worth contacting a solicitor to seek advice about protective measures thinking that the courts may be closed. Although it is true that the courts are largely closed to the public, the Judges, lawyers and court staff are still able to work. We are fortunate enough that technology has been implemented by the Courts very quickly to enable hearings to take place.
We, at BH&O LLP, are also very fortunate as we have used technology to its full potential, even before the pandemic, and are therefore able to continue our work from our homes almost uninterrupted.
I have recently obtained an emergency protective order and although it required some thinking outside the box, the process was fairly smooth.
I have taken instructions over the telephone, prepared the necessary paperwork from my home office and have sent this to clients electronically for approval.
Working from home gave me the flexibility to employ different technologies that I may not think of whilst in the office. It also gave me the flexibility to speak with a client outside office hours and at times when it was convenient for my client to accommodate her own personal circumstances.
I then issued the application at Court via email and arranged with the Court staff a telephone hearing with the Judge.
I conducted a hearing over the telephone at the allocated time whilst having contact with a client on a separate device so that she was able to understand what was said in Court on her behalf and what the Judge’s decision was.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the draft order was provided to the Judge electronically and was drafted by the Court office in a matter of minutes.
I then instructed a process server, again remotely, and provided the necessary details to make sure that the order could be served on the other side.
Once the orders were served, I received a confirmation from the process server and dealt with all of the paperwork.
The entirety of the process was undertaken from my home office with a Judge on the telephone, client on the telephone and email and not a single piece of paper being printed off.
We must of course be cautious about victims of domestic abuse and the practical difficulties and danger to their personal safety that such applications could bring. Any such applications must be dealt with very carefully. However, what my case has shown me is that protective orders can be obtained very quickly and effectively if we all just think a little bit creatively and employ the technology that is available to us, for the protection of our clients and victims of domestic abuse.
Victims may have limited ability to contact support services or lawyers for any help and any such contact will have to be done in a way that does not put their safety in jeopardy, but the positive message I wanted to give in this article is that legal action can be taken if such orders are necessary.
If you wish to discuss any protective orders, please do not hesitate to contact Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP and we will be happy to help.
Irena Osborne, Partner