23 March 2018
Last week the charity, Refuge, launched a campaign to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence in the United Kingdom. The statistics shown in a recent YouGov survey are stark. – One in three British women has experienced domestic violence. – 35% of those say that they would not want anyone to know. – Two-thirds of women believe that the abuse suffered is a private matter and simply a result of their partner losing their temper. – 43% did not think it serious enough to get anyone else involved. Across the Atlantic, domestic violence has also been in the news following the sacking of the Baltimore Ravens player, Ray Rice, after a video appeared showing him knocking his wife unconscious in the lift of an Atlantic City casino. His wife's very public defence of her husband is typical of victims of physical or mental abuse. Many defend the perpetrator seeing their partner's loss of control as being their fault or as a normal or reasonable reaction to their own behaviour. Closer to home the organisation, Rights of Women, assisted by the Law Society has been highlighting the difficulties caused by the Government's changes to Legal Aid. It published a report in October 2013 which found that 61% of women experiencing domestic violence took no action in the Family Court. On 19 September the High Court granted Rights of Women permission to challenge the lawfulness of the Government's Legal Aid changes. The case is due to be heard later this year with the charity arguing that the changes are contrary to Articles 6 and 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Whether one's practice involves acting for those previously eligible for public funding or for high or ultra high net worth individuals, it is a sad fact that issues of domestic violence are all too common. Aside from deploying the usual injunctive remedies available under the Family Law Act 1996 or using the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, we should all be aware of the advice and support available to our clients from charities such as Refuge (http://www.refuge.org.uk/) from Women's Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk/). Whatever the result of the judicial review application, hopefully the resulting publicity will raise awareness of the help available.