Weekly Family Law Update May 5, 2020

Domestic abuse, Coronavirus and courts: The last week in family law

Boots offering safe space for domestic abuse victims

Boots pharmacies are being
used as safe spaces to help victims of domestic abuse seeking support during
the coronavirus lockdown.

Victims are able to contact
domestic abuse support services from the company’s consultation rooms across
its 2,400 UK stores.

Domestic abuse charity
Hestia has been overseeing the initiative as part of its ‘UK Says No More’
campaign in response to increased challenges faced by victims who are forced to
isolate at home with their abusers.

Boots’ counter staff will
guide victims to the safe space installed in the consultation rooms, where they
will find 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline, the men’s advice line and
phone numbers for services specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hestia Head of ‘UK Says No
More’ campaign Lyndsey Dearlove said: “We recognise that key workers in
pharmacies hold a unique position within the community as a single point of
contact for victims. By creating this safe space in Boots pharmacies, we hope
many will be able to safely access support whilst following Government
guidelines. We hope more pharmacies will follow Boots UK’s lead and join the
‘safe space’ initiative”.

Mother took son to Greek island to protect him from virus

A mother has been
criticised by a Family Court judge, after she unilaterally took her eleven year
old son to the Greek island of Paros, in the belief that she and the child
would be much safer from coronavirus there.

In the case the parents
were both of Greek origin, but have lived in London since January 2018. On the
20th of March, three days before the national lockdown was announced, the
mother removed the boy to her mother’s home on the island of Paros, without
telling the father.

The father applied to the
court for an order that the mother return the child to this country. Hearing
the father’s application, Mr Justice Mostyn said that the mother’s view may
have been valid, in view of the fact that Greece has a much lower rate of
infection and mortality than this country. However, he said, that did not
justify, in the slightest, what was a wrongful removal of the child from the
place of his habitual residence and, more importantly, from his father.

Extra funding for domestic abuse survivors

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP
has announced £76 million extra funding to support survivors of domestic abuse,
sexual violence and vulnerable children and their families and victims of
modern slavery, during the pandemic.

A change to the rules will
also mean that those fleeing domestic abuse and facing homelessness as a result
will be automatically considered as priority by their council for housing –
ensuring more survivors of domestic abuse have access to a safe home.

Mr Jenrick said:

“It is essential that the
most vulnerable people in our communities continue to get the vital support they
need during this pandemic. This multi-million-pound package is a boost for
charities working on front line to provide often lifesaving support or services
at this unprecedented time. This includes essential support for domestic abuse
victims, living in fear in the place where they should feel most safe – their

Courts operating at half normal levels

On Monday Justice Minister
Chris Philp told the House of Commons Justice Committee that the courts and
tribunals in England and Wales are now conducting almost half as many civil and
criminal hearings as they did before the coronavirus crisis.

Before the crisis, on an
average day there would be 8,320 hearings in the courts and tribunals. Mr Philp
said that on the 27th of April there were 4,066 hearings, 3,458 of
them mainly by video or audio and 608 mainly face-to-face.

However, he also said that the
number of cases received by the civil courts had reduced by 88%, and that civil
court orders were running at 80% of the level they were at prior to the virus.