Domestic violence rises during lockdown

14th May 2020

When the lockdown was introduced across the UK on 23rd March, the emphasis was placed squarely on safety from the COVID-19 virus. As with so many big decisions however, there are always unexpected consequences.

For some, the imposed lockdown may have protected them from the external danger, but in turn significantly increased their risk at home in compelling them to stay indoors with an abusive partner.

Whatever form this abuse takes (from coercive control to physical violence) it is likely to be exacerbated by the current circumstances.

Alarming figures highlight a growing problem

The impact on the problem of domestic abuse was instant, with calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline increasing by 25% since the start of lockdown. The Met Police reported a 9% rise in the number of domestic violence incidents recorded between March 9th and April 19th, with 17,275 incidents being recorded – a pattern repeated across the UK.

Figures released by the West Midlands Police following a Freedom of Information request revealed that the force had dealt with an average of 117 incidents of domestic violence every single day between March 23rd and April 26th.

Of the 4,108 total incidents, only 146 have resulted in charges, summons or cautions; in 60% of cases the police had been able to identify a suspect but victims ultimately chose not to press charges.

A reason to leave the family home

This last figure is perhaps explained by victims of domestic violence believing the lockdown means they cannot leave home to escape from an abusive partner.

It is imperative to remember in these uncertain times that it remains legal for people to leave their home to escape an abusive partner.

The Mayor of London recently announced £1.5m funding to house the victims of domestic violence who have to flee their homes, having already provided alternative housing for 82 such victims.

Liverpool and Birmingham have followed suit, with campaigns launched to encourage victims of domestic violence to speak out about their situation and seek help.

This is not a situation unique to the UK, with many countries reporting a similar jump in reported incidents of domestic violence. In France, for example, the figure rose by 30%, in Singapore the figure rose by 33%, in Australia and Brazil 40% and in India a terrifying 100%.

A second reading offers hope

In the UK, the government appears to have recognised the situation and has given its Domestic Abuse Bill its second reading. The information published by the Home Office states that the Bill will:

  • create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse
  • establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of local authorities, the justice system and other statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse
  • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order
  • place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation
  • prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts in England and Wales
  • create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts (for example, to enable them to give evidence via a video link)
  • enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody
  • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing
  • ensure that where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) this must be a secure lifetime tenancy
  • extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences.

While the Bill itself will provide relief for victims in the longer term, former Prime Minister Theresa May wants more immediate practical steps, having raised the prospect that increased domestic violence in lockdown could cause more damage than the pandemic itself.

May has suggested the Police and Local Authorities should make random visits to houses where domestic abuse perpetrators are known to live, or where violence has previously been reported. It remains to be seen whether these measure will be implemented.

We are here to help

Despite the lockdown, the legal system is still operating, and it is possible to seek the kind of Court Orders that protect victims of domestic violence.

Ansons Solicitors remain open, and our Family Law specialists are working remotely to offer assistance despite the measures in place. With the Courts also operating via digital platforms, we can still help support victims of domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes.

If you have an issue you would like to discuss in strictest confidence, via a remote virtual meeting or by telephone, please get in touch with the Family team here at Ansons. Speak to Sonali Obhrai on 01543 267232 or email

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