Legal options & definitions
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In general terms a victim can apply for an order against someone who is a family member or has lived with them in a familial relationship. The following are the specific categories of people who can apply (known as associated persons).
A person is associated with another person if:
- they are or have been married to each other
- they are or have been civil partners of each other
- they are co-habitees or former co-habitees
- they live or have lived in the same household, otherwise than merely by reason of one of them being the other’s employee, tenant, lodger or boarder
- they are relatives.
“Relative”, in relation to a person means;
- a) the father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson, or granddaughter of that person or of that person’s spouse or former spouse or
b) the brother, sister, uncle, aunt ,niece or nephew (whether of the full blood or of the half blood or by affinity ) of that person or of that person’s spouse or former spouse And includes, in relation to a person who is living or has lived with another person, as husband and wife, any person who would fall within paragraph (a) or (b) if the parties were married to each other”
- they have agreed to marry one another
- they have entered into a civil partnership agreement
- in relation to any child, they are a parent of the child; or has or has had parental responsibility for the child
- they are parties to the same family proceedings (other than proceedings under this order)
If an alleged perpetrator does not fall under one of these categories a victim may instead be able to apply for protection by way of a civil injunction.
BOTH A NON-MOLESTATION ORDER AND AN OCCUPATION ORDER CAN BE MADE BY AN EX-PARTE APPLICATION
If there has been a recent (usually within seven days) incident of abuse a victim can make an emergency application to the court for either a non-molestation order or an occupation order or both. These are often referred to as ex-parte orders. This means that the Respondent (alleged perpetrator) is not notified of the application being made to the court. Ex – Parte orders will only be granted on a short term (interim) basis but are useful in providing urgent protection from further abuse, until such times as the Respondent (alleged perpetrator) can be given notice of the application for a full order being sought. The order usually lasts until the next court date.
If the order has been made by way of ex-parte or in an emergency then the alleged perpetrator will not have been in court and will not know that the order is in place. In these cases the information on the order is sent by the court to the Police Service N. Ireland (PSNI) who will serve it (inform the person).
THE ORDER TAKES EFFECT ONCE SERVED
The Applicant (victim) will also receive a copy of the order by first class post from the Northern Ireland Court and Tribunals Service (NICTS) (See sample Ex-Parte Non-Molestation Order at Appendix 1).
If an emergency order is granted by the court, the court will then summons both parties to attend court for a full hearing. The Respondent (alleged perpetrator) can either confirm that they are content for a full non-molestation and/ or occupation order to be made against them, or, they can say that they are not happy with the order being made and can defend themselves against such an order being made.
- Frequent, unwanted contact, for example appearing at the home or workplace of the victim, telephone calls, text messages, emails or other contact such as via the internet/ social networking sites
- Driving past the victim’s home or work
- Following or watching the victim
- Sending letters or unwanted ‘gifts’ to the victim
- Damaging the victim’s property
- Burglary or robbery of the victim’s home, workplace, vehicle or other
- Threats of harm to the victim and/ or others associated with them (including sexual violence and threats to kill)
- Harassment of people associated with the victim (eg. family members, partner, work colleagues)
- Physical and/ or sexual assault of the victim and even murder
- Telephone calls
- Text messages
- E mails
- Sending or leaving unsolicited materials/gifts, graffiti
- Messages on social media.
- Waiting for
- Spying on
- Going to a person’s home.
Restraining orders may even be made where the defendant is acquitted, to cover the cases where despite the acquittal the court feels the victim of harassment still needs protection. The court can make the order of its own volition or if they are asked to by the prosecution. The onus is on the prosecution to remind the court of its powers particularly on acquittal.
The police, in making a referral to the prosecution, can include a recommendation to the prosecution that such an order needs to be considered. It is of course still open to any victim to seek a non-molestation order as previously outlined but the use of this power by the courts would perhaps suggest a more proactive approach by the courts and may offer more seamless protection to victims. Back to Top
Under The Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997 a civil injunction may be used when there are no familial relationships i.e. Where the parties are not associated persons as listed on page 4 paragraph “Who can apply for Non Molestation and Occupation Orders?”
There must be evidence of two separate incidents of harassment and physical violence or harm to seek this remedy. Back to Top
- not a court order or any form of conviction or caution
- the requirements and scope of The Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997 is that all allegations of harassment are taken seriously and investigated by the police
- that harassment, alarm or distress has been caused, or may have been caused, to the victim by specified actions of the suspect (or that this may be caused should the conduct continue to be repeated)
- that any future, similar conduct could amount to a criminal offence under The Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997
- the fact that the PIN has been received could be used as evidence in any future criminal investigation or prosecution, or civil proceedings taken by the victim
- that acknowledging receipt of the notice does not mean that the suspect is admitting any wrongdoing – simply accepting information about The Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997 and the police position on investigating allegations of harassment.