Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Domestic Abuse - Practice and Precedents

Domestic Abuse

Practice and Precedents

By Jane Wilson

£49.95 – Published by Law Society Publishing: June 2010

Domestic Abuse - Practice and Precedents sets for itself the considerable task of ‘providing a fully comprehensive guide to all aspects of domestic abuse’, outlining the full range of civil and criminal options, including non-molestation and occupation orders, forced marriage protection orders, protection from harassment and even anti-social behaviour injunctions. How well does it meet these aims?

The book is separated into four parts, dealing with the risk and impact of domestic abuse, injunction proceedings, domestic abuse and children, and criminal proceedings.

The first part, comprising a single chapter, provides a useful background to the subject, including a definition of domestic abuse, statistics (some of which are quite horrendous), issues and causes. The chapter draws from a number of sources, and my only comment would be to do with the format of the footnotes, which are gathered at the end of the chapter (there is a similar format in a later chapter) and thus are called ‘endnotes’, which requires a certain amount of page-swapping to find references whilst reading the text.

The meat of the book is contained in the second part, which covers (to my knowledge) every civil remedy available for domestic abuse in all its forms: non-molestation and occupation orders under the Family Law Act 1996, forced marriage protection orders, the Protection from Harassment Act, the (now rare) injunction to restrain a tort and anti-social behaviour injunctions under the Housing Act 1996. A chapter is given over to each of these, providing guidance on jurisdiction, orders available, procedure and enforcement (the tricky business of civil enforcement also has a more detailed chapter of its own). There is also a handy section in each chapter setting out the advantages and disadvantages of each type of remedy.

In addition to the law and procedure, Part 2 contains advice on the practical aspects of the work: legal aid, taking instructions and evidence. All extremely useful, although if I had to nit-pick it can be a little basic at times (does anyone need to know the form of a jurat?).

The third part of the book deals with the topical interface between domestic abuse and children proceedings. The issue of domestic abuse crops up all too frequently in residence and contact applications, and a detailed knowledge of its treatment and implications is essential to all family law practitioners. This part, together with the accompanying precedents and resources, does an excellent job of supplying that knowledge.

The final part covers criminal proceedings, so much more important to this subject since breach of a non-molestation order became a criminal offence in 2007. Whilst criminal proceedings may not directly concern the family practitioner (unless he/she is also a criminal practitioner), this part will nevertheless be extremely valuable in providing clients with the type of information that they require.

As the sub-title indicates, the book includes numerous precedents, including checklists, forms, letters and draft orders. Many of these are on disk only, which can be a little frustrating but does make them easy to copy and use. The CD-Rom, which is unprotected, consists of Word documents, PDFs and links to resources on the internet.

The only obvious omission from the book that I can think of is that is does not include a list of useful addresses and websites, although as just mentioned, the accompanying disk does include links to some websites.

Save for that small oversight, the book does, I believe, succeed in providing a comprehensive guide to all aspects of domestic abuse. By its nature, domestic abuse work is usually urgent and therefore information will often have to be accessed quickly, and this book provides that information in a convenient single volume. A very helpful, and above all practical, addition to the library of any family practitioner, whether acting for alleged victim or perpetrator.