How to subvert a well-intentioned law

An unfortunate friend of mine has been the victim of a without notice protection order. A protection order is designed to keep women and children safe from an abusive partner/parent in emergencies. As the Domestic Violence Act 1995 Section 13.1 says:

A protection order may be made on an application without notice if the Court is satisfied that the delay that would be caused by proceeding on notice would or might entail a risk of harm; or undue harm to the applicant or a child of the applicant’s family, or both

The key feature of a protection order in keeping people safe, is that it prevents the father (usually) from having any contact with the mother or children. This would be all well and good, if there was good evidence that the individual was say, an axe murderer, or a sex offender. You would expect some pretty heavy evidence to be required that mum and the kids were in grave danger, before the legal system would step in “without notice” between Mum, Dad and the kids – wouldn’t you?

Unfortunately a “without notice” protection order is the default in 2007.

How long does it take to get an Order?
Almost always the Protection Order will be made the same day. Often it will be made within minutes of the application reaching the Family Court.

Will the respondent be present?
Most of the Orders made by the Family Court are made without notice – which means without the person named in the application (the respondent) being aware of it.

I submit that it is way too easy for men to be subjected to these protection orders today. When the order is without notice, that means that only the applicant’s evidence is considered. The first the man knows about it is the court papers appearing, including the one that tells him to vacate the family home forthwith. Then, it’s time to engage a lawyer, because the “no contact” provisions of the order could see him arrested if he so much as emails any member of his family.

Now, if we could trust the Family Court to take a dictionary view of abuse, I would be less concerned about this issue. But have a look at these examples of abusive behaviour, as defined on the Jigsaw site:

Some specific examples of child abuse are:
• spanking, slapping and hitting with the hand
• hitting with an object, such as a belt, shoe, paddle, ruler, extension cord or hairbrush
• forcing a child to sit in a position for a long time
• yelling and screaming at them
• forcing a child to ‘hold on’
• ignoring them

Either those examples of “abuse” are insane, or my Mum (bless her) was an abuser! Unfortunately, the definition of abuse and violence today is so plastic, we are all abusers, should we come before the Family Court.

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