SFLA spotlights domestic violence

THE Solicitors' Family Law Association (SFLA) has launched a nationwide campaign to make domestic violence victims aware of their rights.

The move coincides with the coming into force this month of Part IV of the Family Law Act 1997, which contains new protection for victims of domestic violence.

The SFLA is campaigning through local media and will also produce a leaflet next month giving practical advice and tips on how to get a domestic violence injunction, such as providing photographs of any bruising and visiting the doctor.

Under the Act, a court order can be obtained for the abuser to be removed from the family home. The abuser can also be made to pay the rent or the mortgage on it.

Previously it was the abused partner and any children who had to leave the home.

The Act introduces one law and one set of remedies for all the courts. It also compels the police to arrest an abuser if an arrest can lawfully be made.

SFLA vice-chair Rosemary Carter said a quarter of all women suffered physical violence at the hands of their partners and that it took an average of 35 beatings before a victim considered seeking help.

But Carter also criticised the Act for not giving cohabitees the same rights as spouses, because under it, cohabiting victims will have a higher threshold of suffering to endure before they receive help and the courts will have more discretion about how they deal with them.

Carter, who in November joins London firm Barnett Sampson as a partner from Miller & Co in Cambridge where she is managing partner, predicted an increase in the number of cases going through the courts because of the Act.

This is because the Act requires police officers to arrest abusers whereas before, they were able to accept an undertaking that he or she would not use violence against the victim in the future.

SFLA press officer Mark Harper, of Anthony Gold Lerman & Muirhead, said the Act was “overall a good piece of legislation”.