By Carla Fraser
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Are you being harassed/threatened? Can you obtain assistance from the courts?

This is a commonly asked question from clients who are experiencing harassment or domestic abuse.  Unfortunately, situations can arise where you have no alternative but to seek the assistance of the court for an order directing another party to do or refrain from doing specific acts.   Sometimes, it may be the result of a difficult relationship breakdown or a family dispute, or sometimes, it can be a case of unrequited attention or a dispute between neighbours or work colleagues. Many people experiencing difficulties do not always realise that help is available.

A common misconception by some people is that they do not feel they require or would be able to obtain an injunction unless there has been a physical assault. This is not the case. Molestation can take many different forms from the obvious physical assaults to harassment, pestering or intimidation through social media and phone calls or texts.

There are a few different terms that people use such as injunctions, restraining orders or non-molestation orders. Essentially, they all provide the same thing, some form of protection to the person in whose favour the order is made by prohibiting the perpetrator from pursuing a course of conduct or behaving in a particular way. This can take the form of prohibiting somebody from coming near your home or place of work or contacting you in any way.

In terms of funding legal aid is still available to apply for a non-molestation order under the Family Law Act 1996, subject to the level of your income and capital, and providing the Legal Aid Agency accept that a court order is required.  Even when your income or capital is above the usual limits for legal aid family work, legal aid will still usually be available for an application for a non-molestation order, subject to you contributing towards the legal aid costs.  

An application can be made for a non-molestation order under the Family Law Act against anyone who meets the criteria for ” an associated person”.  This is a category that has been widened in recent years and will include most family members, former partners, spouses, and former spouses.  If you are experiencing problems with someone who is not an associated person, such as a next-door neighbour an application for an injunction could still be made under the Protection from Harassment Act.  If you believe that you may be assisted by an injunction you should obtain legal advice.  Legal Aid available in some circumstances. 

In some cases, peoples first port of call when experiencing harassment or molestation is to make a complaint to the police, as clearly it can fall into criminal conduct.  A problem that a lot of people experience is that the police do not take them seriously or follow up on the matter or try to palm you away classing it as a “domestic” or a simple “family dispute”. If this does happen, or there is a situation where unfortunately due to a lack of evidence the police cannot take a matter any further, do not despair, help is out there.  Please get in contact with our legal team at PA Duffy and Company.

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