Breaking a Protective Order

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Breaching a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Breaching a restraining order is a serious offence; when someone breaches, or fails to comply with a court order, they are acting in contempt of court. If a person is proven to have breached a restraining order, the penalties can be severe.

If you have been accused of breaching a restraining order, we recommend seeking legal advice without delay. Clifford Johnson & Co are experienced and well-respected in this area of law – get in touch and one of our expert contempt of court solicitors will offer advice and guidance.

What is a restraining order?

When a person has been the victim of domestic abuse, they can apply for a restraining order to protect themselves from any further harm.  The court will put in place a written instruction which forbids certain actions from being taken by the subject of the order until the court reaches a decision on how the situation will be dealt with.

There are two types of court order that might be granted in these circumstances:

  • a non-molestation order – these are put in place to protect victims of domestic abuse from threats of violence, intimidation, or harassment.
  • an occupation order – which regulates who is able to live at a given address and may place restrictions on the subject being able to go to within a certain radius of that address.

What happens if you breach a restraining order?

As restraining orders, or injunctions, are orders that are put in place by the court, any breach of these orders places you in contempt of court, which incurs serious penalties. For example, breaching a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence under new legislation. The breach of any court order, including a restraining order, is classed as a criminal offence; any infringement will result in severe legal consequences.

They can include:

  • Fines
  • The loss of certain rights, such as child visitation rights
  • Community service
  • A term of probation, or the extension of any existing probation period
  • A custodial sentence.

Each case is different, and the terms of a court order will differ accordingly with its own terms and restrictions, so the consequences for breaching them will depend on the circumstances. A court will also look at the reason that the order was put in place originally, and this may impact the sentence you receive, if found guilty.

If you are reported to the police for breaching your restraining order, the police will usually sign a criminal complaint which means that you are then in contempt of court. You may also be arrested, depending on the type of order in place and the nature of the breach committed.

What happens if I am prosecuted?

Where there is evidence to show that you have  breached your restraining order, it is likely that you will be prosecuted, either in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court, depending on the nature of the breach. You will potentially be kept in custody until the date of your court appearance, although it may be possible to apply for bail. Your solicitor will be able to offer advice and may be able to apply for bail on your behalf, depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the breach.

If you are sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court, you could receive up to the maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment if found guilty; in the Crown Court the maximum term is up to five years. If this is not the first time that you have breached your restraining order, you will be judged more harshly and are more likely to receive the maximum penalty. As breaching a court order is a criminal offence, if you are found guilty, you will receive a criminal record.

Is there any defence for breaching a restraining order?

There are defences that can be used if you are accused of breaching your restraining order, if you can offer a reasonable excuse for the infringement. For instance, if you were unaware that you were in the same location as the person who requested the order against you, a court may examine the circumstances and may or may not agree that the breach occurred unintentionally. It would also be beneficial if you can demonstrate that you are following instructions, are working with a mediator, or are otherwise closely complying with the demands of the court order.

I think that I may have breached my restraining order – what should I do?

If you think that you may be in contempt of court as a result of breaching a restraining order, it’s important to gather any evidence that might show that you had a reasonable excuse for what happened. To build the best defence against a Committal Application, or to mitigate the consequences that you are likely to face, seeking expert legal advice as soon as possible is vital. It may be possible to secure publicly funded representation through the Legal Aid system.

It is important not to discuss your case with police or officials without having a legal representative present to ensure that you do not inadvertently say something that might harm your defence. The charge of breaching your restraining order is serious and should not be taken lightly. If you need assistance or representation regarding such an offence, contact one of our specialist solicitors for immediate advice.

Why choose Clifford Johnston & Co?

Whatever your concerns, with more than 20 years’ experience in dealing with contempt of court cases, Clifford Johnston & Co are well placed to advise you. We can offer guidance and ensure that you gather the documents and evidence that you may need to support your case. We will assess the details of your specific circumstances in order to determine the appropriate defence. We can represent you in the courtroom, making sure that you fully understand the proceedings throughout, and working hard to ensure the best outcome achievable.

Based in Manchester, we work with clients throughout the UK – speak to one of our advisors today and we’ll be happy to help you.




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