Safety orders up in domestic violence cases

There has been a 10% rise in the total number of domestic violence orders issued by the courts over the last eight years, official figures show.

The increase is mainly due to a 30% jump in safety orders — the result of legal changes introduced in 2011 extending the eligibility of those who could apply.

The substantial increase in safety orders granted has been largely offset by a 38% fall in the number of barring orders issued by the courts.

Safety orders are a court direction to a respondent to stop engaging in violence or threat of violence, but does not require the person to leave the family home.

A barring order directs the person to leave the family home and may also include terms prohibiting the respondent from using or threatening to use violence.

Statistics published by the Courts Service show the number of domestic violence applications to the courts rose from 11,394 in 2007 to 13,275 in 2014. The total number of orders made by the district courtrose from 6,797 to 7,499 in that period.

A breakdown of the type of orders granted show:

  • Barring orders fell from 1,420 in 2007 to 877 (down 38%);
  • Protection orders rose from 3,235 to 4,024 (up 24%);
  • Safety orders increased from 1,556 to 2,029 (up 30%);
  • Interim barring orders dropped marginally from 586 to 569 (down 3%).

A protection order is a temporary safety order, while an interim barring order is a temporary provision.

In August 2011, changes were made to the Domestic Violence Act 1996 which extended eligibility for orders to people previously excluded. It removed the minimum required period of cohabitation and also included same-sex couples.

Women’s Aid has repeatedly raised concerns at the caseload facing the Family Law Courts, which it said was “bursting at the seams” and significantly under-resourced.

It has said there is a significant delay between the granting of a protection order and the bringing of an application for a safety/barring order.

It estimated the current wait time is 14 weeks. It said these delays “can leave women and children in vulnerable and dangerous situations”. 


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