Experts have warned that an extended Covid-19 lockdown could lead to more cases of domestic abuse in households across the UK.
Specialist family lawyer Hannah Bridgwood says last year on average three people a week were killed as a result of domestic abuse and this year’s statistics are expected to increase as a result of the self-isolation measures put in place by the government to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Indeed the Domestic Abuse Helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help.
Following similar trends in other locked down countries, which have seen a spike in domestic abuse cases during recent weeks and months, the Police are on high alert for these situations and Hannah says despite the lockdown solicitors are on hand and can act fast to help.
Hannah, an Associate Solicitor with national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “These measures are absolutely necessary to slow down the spread of this deadly virus but in times of crisis such as these, whilst we are socially distancing ourselves, we must not forget the most vulnerable in society.
“Something which has not been widely spoken about is that the measures provide for people leaving their home in exceptional circumstances and one of these is to ‘avoid or escape risk of injury or harm’.
“So, if you are in fear for your safety and that of your children, you are able to leave your household to get help and seek refuge.
“If you are in immediate danger, you should never hesitate to call 999 straight away. If you are unable to speak because you are scared your abuser will hear, you can dial 55 during your call; this will alert the police that the call is genuine, extremely urgent and will be prioritised.”
It is also important to note that there are exceptions to the lockdown guidelines including people being permitted to leave the house if they feel they or their children are in danger.
The government have recognised that sufferers of domestic abuse may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time as Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged to crack down on those using the lockdown to make their victims feel ‘especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed’.
Hannah continued: “Solicitors can help, the Courts remain open and are able to deal with emergency applications quickly. We can apply for non-molestation orders which are injunctions designed to protect you and your children from further harm; we can also apply for occupation orders to get your abuser out of the family home.
“It is worth noting that if your abuser pays the bills and rent/mortgage, the Court can also order that they can carry on paying. We offer telephone and video calls so that we can act quickly to get you the protection you need.
“Refuges remain open and are able to support you, there are also many charities that remain open and are able to help. I would encourage anyone currently in fear of domestic abuse to reach out.
“For anyone who wants to help their friends, neighbours and those in the community who they think may be suffering domestic abuse, the guidance is clear that you cannot have visitors in your home. Instead, contact the police, get legal advice, reach out to the domestic abuse charities or contact me directly.”
Hannah Bridgwood is an Associate within the family and divorce team at Clarke Willmott, a national law firm with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.
Contact Hannah directly at Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 2091698.
You can also find out more from Women’s Aid at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-safety-advice-for-survivors/ or The Men’s Advice Line at https://mensadviceline.org.uk/
Other helpful organisations are Galop, Hestia, Chayn, National Domestic Abuse Helpline and Surviving Economic Abuse.
For more information about Clarke Willmott visit www.clarkewillmott.com