Guide to non-molestation orders
Domestic violence and harassment are sadly far more common that most people imagine. Manifestations of such abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual and can occur once or be sustained over a period of time. It is an issue that the law takes extremely seriously. Where a client is at risk of such abuse our advice will almost certainly be that an application for a non-molestation order should be made. In cases where the parties live in the same house the application may well be combined with an application for an occupation order so that the other party is not allowed to re-enter the property.
Equally, even when not living together, one or other party to the relationship may be experiencing abuse or harassment and need protection. This can reach a crisis point around the breakdown of a relationship and special care will need to be taken at that point.
You can apply for a non-molestation order against an “associated person”, i.e., someone with whom you have or have had a relatively close relationship. This includes spouses, ex-spouses, civil partners, ex-civil partners, cohabitees, former cohabitees, various family members and persons with whom you have, or have had, an intimate relationship for a significant duration. Where there is a less close degree of relationship there are alternative remedies available in criminal law.
The application can be made initially ‘without notice’ where the court considers it just and convenient to do so. Without notice applications are commonly made when the applicant is in immediate danger. Where an application is made on a ‘without notice’ basis a hearing takes place before the other party is aware that an application has been made. If the application is successful the court will make an interim non-molestation order.
As there is no statutory definition of ‘molestation’, case law is relied on for guidance. It includes violence and threats of violence but is not limited to such acts. The courts are required to consider all of the circumstances of the case including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the applicant and any relevant child. The lack of a statutory definition gives the court a wide discretion when deciding what constitutes molestation. Commonly, a non-molestation order will prevent the other party:
1. Using or threatening violence against the applicant, or instructing or encouraging a third party to do so;
2. Intimidating or harassing the applicant, or instructing or encouraging a third party to do so;
3. Contacting the applicant, directly or indirectly; and
4. Attending the applicant’s property.
Breaching a non-molestation order is a criminal offence. If the other party breaches the non-molestation order you should immediately contact the police. A non-molestation order is in itself a civil remedy, but harassment is a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. As such an injunction similar to that of a non-molestation order can, in certain circumstances, be available under criminal law.
If you are interested in discussing non-molestation orders please see How Vardags can help with non-molestation orders.