We are experts in defending allegations of Domestic Abuse & Violence (Manchester & London)
Welcome to the Olliers Domestic Abuse Hub which we have created to assist anyone who finds themselves facing an allegation of domestic abuse. Investigations into offences of domestic abuse are increasing. In recent years, new offences have been created and time limits for reporting certain allegations within a domestic relationship have been extended.
For many years, the specialist team at Olliers has represented clients facing allegations of domestic abuse. This is a sensitive area of law in which clients are often embarrassed about allegations being made against them. What’s more, whilst there may be one or more specific allegations against an individual, the background is often much more complex and there are always two sides to a story. Our message to anyone facing an allegation of domestic abuse is that you do not have to face it alone.
There’s no specific offence of domestic abuse or domestic violence. It can constitute a number of different offenses committed in a domestic environment. So, for example, various forms of assault or common assaults, allegations of controlling and coercive behaviour and relatively new offence of non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation. Allegations in relation to domestic abuse are now being prioritised and investigations are on the increase and we see new offences being created and time limits in in relation to the investigations of some offences have also been increased.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has dramatically altered the landscape for the investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse offences, so we find that there are more offences capable of being investigated and a greater amount of police resources being put into the investigation and prosecution of these offences.
Coercive behaviour can involve acts or an act of violence, threats of violence, intimidation coercion that can frighten, harm or intimidate or isolate a complainant. Controlling behaviour can involve an array of acts that can make an individual feel isolated or that they’ve lost their independence. The individual may have no access to support, they may feel that their daily behaviour is being regulated.
There are four elements to the offence of controlling and coercive behaviour. Firstly the behaviour has to be controlling and coercive, secondly the individuals have to be personally connected, thirdly the behaviour has to have had a serious effect upon the complainant and finally the suspect has to have known or ought to have known that it would have had such an effect upon the complainant.
Non-fatal strangulation has been a criminal offence since 2022. There are in fact two offences; there’s non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation and it involves, essentially, a deliberate act that affects another person’s breathing, and the maximum sentence for the offence is five years imprisonment.
Following a police interview, there’s an awful lot that can be done on behalf of someone who’s under investigation in relation to a domestic abuse allegation. The first thing to do is to work out what areas of the prosecution case can be contradicted or undermined and it’s at that point the defence would then go on the front foot and instigate pre-charge engagement with investigators. Following that, we would then build up representations that could be made to the police against a prosecution taking place, in other words, representations against charge. We would then argue that the charging standard contained within the code for crown prosecutors is not met either because there is not a realistic prospect of a conviction or to the prosecution is not in the public interest. What we’re likely to do is draw to the attention of investigators, material that will undermine the prosecution case and this list is not exhaustive. It may include text messaging, email, other electronic communication, it may involve social media activity, it could include financial transactions and banking activity, there could be third-party material, there could be material in the family proceedings, it may be necessary to speak to witnesses, family members, friends and so on. The list goes on and on. We will frequently draw to the attention of prosecutors a reason, potentially a motive, as to why an allegation has been made because often allegations of domestic abuse are made at the end of a relationship when emotions are running high and there can be all sorts of issues that are flying around between the parties whether that relates to children, finances, new relationships and that’s something that we feel it’s really important for the police and prosecutors to fully appreciate so that the only prosecutions that take place are the ones that should be before the courts.
A decision to prosecute someone is made if the charging standard is met and the charging standard is contained within the code for crown prosecutors, and under the charging standard for a prosecution to take place there must be a realistic prospect of a conviction and a prosecution must be in the public interest. And it’s a role of defence lawyers during the pre-charge stage of the case to persuade investigators, and in due course prosecutors, either that there is not a realistic prospect to a conviction or that a prosecution is not in the public interest.
Absolutely, not only do we represent people during the pre-charge stage of the case but we represent individuals who come to us having been told that they are due to appear in court. The level of experience at Olliers is substantial, we have a large team of specialists with huge levels of experience of dealing with domestic abuse allegations. So the message is simple, if you come to Olliers, we will ensure that the right lawyer is allocated to the right client every single time.
The Olliers Pre-Charge Team
When a client faces an allegation of domestic abuse we will always look to establish ‘pre-charge engagement’ with investigators. We will seek to make representations against charge arguing on behalf of our clients that the ‘Charging Standard’ as contained within the Code for Crown Prosecutors is not met. We will do this by arguing either that there is not a ‘realistic prospect of a conviction’ or that a prosecution is not in the ‘public interest’.
Many of our clients are professionals who have no prior involvement with the criminal justice system and for many this is the first time they have ever been arrested. We have many years’ experience of representing doctors, medical professionals, other lawyers, teachers, FCA regulated professionals, and high net worth individuals and understand the importance of seeking to avoid a prosecution.
The link between family proceedings and criminal allegations of domestic violence
The purpose of the panel discussion was to canvass our specialist lawyers’ views as to how material from family proceedings can impact upon criminal investigations. At Olliers we have specific expertise in dealing with cases involving intra-familial allegations including sexual allegations, coercive and controlling allegations and domestic assaults.
The panel considered whether family proceedings can be disclosed in a criminal case, what type of material from family proceedings could be disclosed, Olliers’ experience of representing individuals in interfamilial allegations and how important an understanding of the interaction between family proceedings and criminal investigations is. Click here to watch the panel discussion.
What is domestic abuse or domestic violence?
There is no specific offence of ‘domestic violence’ or ‘domestic abuse’ and the term can be applied to a variety of assault offences alleged to have been committed in what is regarded as a domestic environment. It covers assault offences including section 39 assault, common assault, battery, section 47 assault and actual battery harm (ABH). It is the domestic nature of the allegation that is regarded as an aggravating feature. The parties will frequently have lived with one another, there may be children or extended family members affected.
Allegations may date back over extended periods, they are rarely one off events and they may be combined with allegations of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse. Frequently allegations of domestic abuse run alongside other issues between the parties, for example separation, divorce, issues in relation to children, finances or third party relationships.
At Olliers, we understand the complexity of cases involving allegations of domestic abuse. We appreciate that matters are rarely as straightforward as may be initially be presented by police or prosecutors who will inevitably have only one side of the story.
How can Olliers help me?
During an investigation stage of the case, we will liaise with police in a sensitive manner. In many cases, there may be retraction statements. If an allegation is admitted we will explore the possibility of a caution. We will advise in relation to Domestic Violence Protection Orders.
We will advise our clients on the possibility of out of court disposals and diversionary tools available. These can include restorative justice, simple cautions, conditional cautions and youth cautions for young persons.
Where an allegation is denied we will ensure that our client’s case is presented meticulously. If the matter proceeds to court we will ensure that no stone is left unturned in the defence of our client. Cases of a domestic nature can often involve very limited supporting evidence and result in the account of the complainant versus the account of the defendant. Click here to read more about how we deal with such cases.
In cases involving prosecution where the matter is admitted we will look at the availability of restorative justice.
What are the consequences of a conviction?
Our specialists can also advise on the consequences of convictions and cautions from the perspective of the Disclosure and Barring Service for those employed in sensitive professions.
Some frequently asked questions
The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your case. A specialist criminal solicitor who has all the relevant information will be able to give you a good idea of whether you can expect your case to go to trial.
Those charged with domestic violence offences can expect to be given a date to attend their local Magistrates’ Court. Defendants involved in more serious cases may be held in custody by the police to be taken to court at the earliest opportunity. During the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court the magistrates will decide whether the matter will be heard at the Crown Court or the Magistrates’ Court, this decision will be based on the seriousness of the offence. Defendants will also be asked to enter a plea at this first hearing. Offences such as common assault and lower value criminal damage will always be heard in the Magistrates’ Court unless they are charged alongside more serious offences. Those held in custody by the police will have the opportunity to apply for bail during this first hearing. Cases that remain in the Magistrates’ Court will be adjourned to a later date for either sentence or trial depending whether guilty or not guilty pleas are entered.
Anyone suspected or accused of a domestic violence offence should certainly seek legal advice. Domestic violence is an area of criminal law that is taken very seriously by the police and the courts. It is not uncommon for defendants to be remanded into custody whilst they await trial. A domestic violence conviction can result in a ruined reputation and livelihood as well as leaving the defendant with a criminal record and potentially facing time in prison.
If you have not yet been charged with a domestic violence offence your lawyer can make representations to the police and prosecution that you should not be charged. Two conditions must be met before the decision to charge is made. These are a) it must be in the public interest that the suspect is charged and b) there must be a realistic prospect of a conviction. Your lawyer may be able to put forward a compelling argument based these two conditions not being satisfied that results in no charges being brought. Once the decision to charge you has been made, the likelihood is that is denied matters will proceed to trial. It is a decision for the prosecutor whether to discontinue charges but they usually only do this when they have insufficient evidence to proceed with a trial.
Yes, those convicted of domestic violence will have a criminal conviction that will remain on their antecedent record. They would be required to declare any domestic violence conviction in a job application and it would show up on a DBS check.
Domestic violence offences are not governed by separate law. Many standard offences can be considered domestic violence if they have been committed against a family member, partner or former partner. For example domestic assaults are prosecuted under the same laws as standard assault offences. Many domestic assault matters (common assault, battery, ABH, s. 47 assault, s.20 GBH, s.18 GBH) are prosecuted under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Offences like criminal damage and breach of restraining order can also be considered domestic violence if they fulfil the criteria above. The major difference is that if your case is determined to be domestic violence it can be harder to get bail or you may be given more restrictive bail conditions than someone charged with the same offence but in a non-domestic setting.
The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Less serious domestic assaults such as common assault or battery are far less likely to result in a custodial sentence than s.20 GBH or s.18 GBH. Whether a custodial sentence is passed will also depend on the defendant’s previous convictions and any personal mitigation they may have.
A section 39 assault the catch all term for common assault, battery and assault by beating. They are the least serious form of assault and are when there is an assault but no injury. Strictly speaking, a common assault is when there has been no actual contact and the victim has been ‘caused to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.’ A battery or assault by beating is when there has been contact but no injuries caused.
A common assault is an assault where the victim has been ‘caused to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.’ This means that there is no requirement for the defendant to have touched the victim, merely made them anticipate that they will be subject to violence. The offence can be committed with words alone.
A battery is among the least serious assaults and is also known as an assault by beating. It is where there is an ‘actual intended application of force,’ by the defendant on the victim but no injury caused. A battery is often referred to as section 39 assault and occasionally confused with a common assault where there is no requirement for physical contact between the two parties.
An assault by beating is also known as a battery and is when there has been an ‘actual intended application of force’ on the victim by the defendant but no injuries caused. It is amongst the least serious forms of assault and is often referred to as a section 39 assault.
Contact Olliers Solicitors
If you are facing an allegation of domestic assault, whether you have been asked to attend for voluntary interview, released under investigation or police bail or been charged with an offence and have a court date please contact us to discuss further.
We have offices in both London and Manchester and our specialist team of domestic assault lawyers can advise and represent you in relation your case.