What should you do if you’re accused of domestic violence?

26th May 2022 | Serious Violence & Assault|
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

In Brief

If you’ve been accused of domestic abuse, you should be aware that you can end up in prison for a domestic violence offence. There are various crimes that fall under the umbrella term of domestic violence, but all are serious and you’ll require professional legal representation if you’re accused of one.

Domestic violence accusations – why you need immediate legal advice 

As soon as you hear about accusations of domestic violence against you, it’s wise to enlist the services of specialist domestic violence defence solicitors. They’ll ensure that you don’t incriminate yourself and will set about preparing your defence with you straight away. The more evidence you can gather to support your case, the greater your chances of being found not guilty at trial, or not being charged at all.

After all, the potential repercussions of the accusations go far beyond your relationship with the accuser and any legal penalty: your personal and professional reputation will suffer and you could even lose access to your children. An experienced legal team such as ours will work hard to minimise damage to your reputation and relationships, while guiding you through the legal process, every step of the way.

What is domestic violence? 

The traditional perception of domestic violence is one of physical assault by one partner on another partner. But understanding that domestic violence assaults are just one part of domestic abuse is important. Domestic abuse is not an offence in itself, but an umbrella term. 

It goes much wider than physical violence upon partners, covering various levels of assault, rape, indecent assault, false imprisonment, criminal damage and other crimes. Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, domestic abuse can involve:

  • Physical violence or sexual abuse
  • Violent/threatening behaviour
  • Controlling behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Emotional, psychological or other abuse

Economic abuse can include preventing someone from obtaining goods or services, or restricting their ability to gain, use or keep money or property.

In terms of the accused, it could be any individual, over the age of 16, with a ‘personal connection’ to the accuser. These connected individuals could include, for example, an ex-partner, parent, son, daughter, grandparent or grandchild – as well as a partner’s or ex-partner’s relations.

What happens when you’re accused of domestic violence? 

After being accused of domestic abuse, you’ll be arrested by the police and interviewed. When they can, police take photos and record observations from the scene when they’re called to a domestic disturbance. 

If you have a solicitor present at your interview, they’ll be able to gain disclosure of the evidence against you. They’ll use knowledge of this evidence to advise you upon the right approach to take during the interview.

After the interview, you may be detained while the police seek a decision from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on whether to charge you or not. In domestic abuse cases, the decision is often quite swift and sometimes you won’t be released on bail or under investigation. Your solicitors may be able to negotiate this, however, as well as restrictions on where you can go and who you can see.

If the CPS decides that there’s sufficient evidence to charge you, a court date will quickly be forthcoming. Like all cases, it will go first to a magistrates court, progressing to the Crown Court if it’s deemed serious enough and depending on the offence itself.

In some cases, where there is insufficient evidence to charge you or place bail conditions on you, you could be subject to a domestic violence protection order. This can prevent you from returning to a residence or having contact with your accuser for up to 28 days. This would involve the police making a specific application to the local magistrates court for such an order.

What if you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence? 

Needless to say, being accused of domestic violence of any kind is a distressing situation to find yourself in. The potential repercussions will cause you worry, particularly if you have children and cannot see them. There is also reputational damage to consider, with your career on the line, in some cases.

The sudden nature of domestic abuse arrests can also add to your stress. They’re carried out quickly to protect victims, with those accused sometimes arrested at work or in other public places.

If you’re facing false allegations of domestic abuse, the important thing to do is seek immediate legal advice and do everything you can to aid your defence.

Building a defence against false accusations

Due to the potential perceived immediate danger to victims of domestic violence, cases are moved through the legal process quickly. For instance, the gap between a first court date and the trial can be very brief.

While this can be beneficial in helping you get your life back on track following allegations, it also gives your legal team less time to prepare. Lawtons are specialist domestic violence defence solicitors and can immediately get started on devising effective defence strategies.

Such strategies will include gaining witness statements, character witness statements and, potentially, alibis. It might be that your solicitors also seek medical expertise to disprove any allegations of physical violence. In short, your legal team will carefully examine every opening in the prosecution’s case, trying to break it apart piece by piece.

What happens to the accuser if you’re proven innocent? 

Should you be proven innocent of a domestic violence-related crime, the focus could then turn to your accuser. In the case of false allegations, they might face charges themselves.

In theory, they could be charged with perverting the court of justice with false allegations, which can carry a life sentence. However, this is extremely unlikely and even a lesser charge of wasting police time is uncommon. Ultimately, the authorities don’t want to deter people from pressing charges in cases of domestic abuse.

What penalties are there if you’re found guilty?

If you’re convicted of an offence involving serious violence or severe psychological harm, there is a strong likelihood that you’ll face a prison sentence. How long that sentence will be depends upon the offence itself. For example, the average sentence for rape in 2020 was over 10 years, whereas criminal damage cases are usually heard in the magistrate’s court, meaning a maximum term of six months in prison.

There are many aggravating factors that could increase the sentence handed down by a judge. These include impacts on children, any abuse of power or trust and a history of violence/threats in a domestic context.

The court can implement a restraining order against the offender in any case with a conviction, preventing further harm being done to the victim. Any breaches of the order are dealt with as a separate, serious criminal offence.

Even if you’re acquitted of a domestic violence offence, the court can still instigate a restraining order, one designed to prevent any harassment of the accuser.

What should you do after being accused of domestic violence?

First of all, don’t be tempted to contact the accuser, even through somebody else. You could further incriminate yourself or aggravate the situation, which could lead to further allegations or other charges being pressed.

Avoiding contact is one of the first pieces of advice lawyers will give you. They’ll also urge you to stay as calm as you possibly can, throughout the whole process. This is particularly relevant to domestic abuse allegations, which are often associated with anger.

All in all, the guidance of experienced solicitors will be invaluable, so contact us now to secure the best outcome possible.

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