If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you should seek assistance from the police for immediate protection. You may also need to seek the protection of court orders. The law in this area is complex and you need legal advice from one of our family lawyers. See below for more information.
My partner has threatened or assaulted me. What should I do?
In any emergency situation where you are the victim of threats or actual violence, you should contact the police as soon as you can. Even if you already have a court order against your partner, when you require practical help in a crisis, call the police by dialling 999 in an emergency.
The non-emergency number for Fife Police is 0845 600 5702. The out of hours number for Fife Social Work Department is 08451 550099.
Fife Police have a Family Protection Unit who offer support and help to victims of abuse (children or adults). You can contact the FPU direct on 01383 312300 or visit their website at www.fife.police.uk/default.aspx?page=1936&theme=default.
You should also consider contacting Women’s Aid for help. Women’s Aid offers advice, support and refuge accommodation to women who are victims of domestic abuse, and their children. You could look at the website for Fife Women’s Aid - www.fifewomensaid.org.uk or for Scottish Women’s Aid - www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk. The Scottish Government also has a useful website on domestic abuse - www.survivorscotland.org.uk.
Is there any help I can get for my violent partner?
If your partner really wants to get help for his abusive behaviour, there may be anger management counselling available locally. You should ask your GP or health visitor to point you in the right direction for this. If you can’t discuss things with your partner, or if he refuses to try to address his problems, you can consider taking action in court to obtain court orders to protect you from further abuse (see our factsheet “Domestic Abuse – Court Orders”).
What will happen if the police charge my partner with assaulting me?
The police can arrest your partner if he has committed a criminal offence, such as assault or breach of the peace (which would include shouting and swearing at you and causing you to be frightened). Once the incident is reported to the police, the matter is largely outwith your control. If the charges proceed, your partner will have to appear in court. If your partner is arrested he may be kept in custody by the police until he can appear in court the next working day. You do not need a solicitor to represent you, but you may get help and support from Women’s Aid www.fifewomensaid.org.uk or from Victim Support.
What can I do after the emergency is over?
If you want to move out of your home, even temporarily, you may be able to get refuge accommodation through Women’s Aid (see above). You should get legal advice about obtaining a court order against your partner. See our factsheet “Domestic Abuse – Court Orders”.
What kind of court order could I get to protect me from domestic abuse?
Your solicitor can apply to the court for an “interdict”. This type of court order usually prohibits your partner from behaving abusively towards you (e.g. assaulting or threatening you) and/or from being in a particular place (e.g. calling at your home if you are separated, or going to your children’s school if he might try to remove them). The exact order will depend on your particular situation.
There is another type of court order called an “exclusion order”. This type of order can be made whether or not you are separated from your partner. It excludes your partner from the family home. If necessary he could be evicted by Sheriff Officers. Before granting an exclusion order, the court has to consider whether it is necessary for your protection, or for the protection of your children. You should consult one of our solicitors, who can advise you whether you may be able to get an exclusion order.
I am not married to my partner. Can I get a court order to protect me from abuse?
Yes, partners in both married and unmarried couples can obtain interdict and exclusion orders for protection from abuse. So can partners in civil partnerships. Same-sex couples who are not civil partners can also obtain protective court orders, though the exact orders which can be obtained may be different. You should discuss this with one of our family law team.
Can my partner be arrested if he breaks a court order?
This would not happen automatically, but your solicitor can ask the court to attach a “power of arrest” to an interdict granted by the court.
Before adding a power of arrest to an interdict, the court will allow your partner the opportunity to be heard or represented in court, and will consider whether the power of arrest is necessary in the circumstances. However, some types of court order must have a power of arrest attached to them if granted. Your solicitor can advise you about this.
What happens if there is a power of arrest and a court order is broken?
If there is a power of arrest attached to your court order, the police can arrest if they suspect that the order has been broken. If the person is arrested, he will usually be held overnight to appear in court the next day. The court can then decide whether to detain him for a further two days.
Whether or not the person breaking the order is detained by the court, you can take court action, through your solicitor, for “breach of interdict”, and the Sheriff has the power to punish the abuser for breaching the interdict.
Can I get a non-harassment order?
This type of order can be obtained to prevent stalking generally, but is also a possibility where there is domestic abuse of a particular kind, usually where the behaviour complained of is not in itself unlawful e.g. repeatedly sending unwanted gifts, phone calls, texts etc. Breach of a non-harassment order is a criminal offence.
If you are subject to abuse from your partner, you should call the police in any emergency situation, and report any assaults or threats to the police - see our factsheet “Domestic Abuse - Emergency Action” on this page.