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The present policy of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute for common assault, only supports the theory widely reported in the media, that a large proportion of the population lives in almost daily fear of violence.
As the criminal courts will not help, increasingly I have found the civil courts a more effective forum. The quia timet injunction, which restrains violence or the threat of violence against those in a group, of which only one member has already suffered, is available. Such groups have included fellow employees, residents of hostels and occupiers of blocks of flats. If you can show a clearly posed risk of repetition against others and the clients are prepared to issue proceedings, the civil courts are prepared to grant appropriate injunctions, ex parte. It may be necessary to name as plaintiffs all persons likely to be affected (eg: all occupiers of a hostel), but the court may grant protection where there is a single, linking plaintiff such as the employer or landlord alone.
This considerable extension to the general rule that parties seeking the injunction must first suffer damage, helps the employer or landlord to meet their obligations to provide a safe working or living environment. However, given that the injunction must be endorsed with a penal notice and personally served, its effectiveness could be improved if a power of arrest were attached.
If the matter goes to committal, the plaintiff must satisfy a quasi criminal standard of proof but only once that committal hearing has been convened will there be a power of arrest to enforce attendance for "sentencing". The police are admittedly more likely to assist if they know of an injunction with a penal notice endorsed but only in a family law context can a power of arrest be attached to a domestic violence injunction.
By the same token, where the individual is threatened with violence in the home or the work place, then a power of arrest would make sense and give considerable comfort to those threatened.
Hazel Wright is a partner at Cumberland Ellis Peirs.