domestic violence protection orders

As of 30th June 2011, police in Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire have been afforded additional powers to prevent people arrested for domestic violence offences & released with no charge contacting the original complainant or attending at their address for a period of between 14 to 28 days following release.

This pilot scheme introduces powers for the police to serve domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs) on suspects which serve a summons for them to attend Court. The Court will then hear an application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO), which must be heard within 48 hours of service of the DVPN, which can be imposed with whatever conditions the Court feel necessary to protect the injured party from violence or threat of violence.

The penalties for breach of the order fall within the provisions of s63 Magistrates Court Act 1980, breach of a civil order and can result in a maximum sentence of either £5000 or 2 months imprisonment.

This does raise the question of fairness? We could end up with a situation whereby someone with no previous convictions and having been released no further action from the police station, receiving a custodial sentence and therefore a criminal record for breach of a DVPO when he or she has committed no substantive offence in the first place. Whilst I understand the need for protection of victims of domestic violence, surely this is nonsensical.

The guidelines appear to suggest that whilst the views of the injured party are taken into account when considering the imposition of a DVPO, the order can be imposed without the support of that injured party. What if it isn't supported by the original complainant? Again, a custodial sentence could be imposed for breach even where neither party requests the imposition of the order.

It remains to be seen how these will work in practice and how often the orders will be utilised given the cost implications of serving notices and representation at the subsequent hearings. So are these orders simply another draconian measure in an already nonsensical domestic violence policy, or a necessary measure to protect the victims of domestic violence?