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FNF claims legal aid changes have caused increase in bogus domestic abuse claims

Organisation publishes review of trends in non-molestation orders

Families Need Fathers has completed a review of trends in non-molestation orders (NMOs or Non-Mols) usage. The organisation says that over 26,000 such orders are now issued annually and that following a period of decline in their use, there was a significant, immediate jump in their numbers following changes legislation in 2013. In April 2013 LASPO ended legal aid for private law family proceedings unless there is evidence that the applicant is a victim of domestic violence or that a child of the family is at risk of abuse from the other person involved.

FNF says that a further spike in their use has occurred since 2017 when "legislation changes to increase scrutiny on the police when they wish to extend police bail without charges led to this back door approach being exploited to get around the scrutiny".

FNF has analysed published Ministry of Justice data, data released following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and evidence based on the experience of its service users in order to identify how NMOs are being used.

According to FNF, since these legislative changes came into force NMOs have increased by 7,249 cases a year, an increase of 37%.

However, the official Ministry of Justice figures for 2018 show a lower proportionate increase year-on-year. In January to March 2018 the increase year-on-year was 9% (6,697 compared to 6,144) and in April to June 2018 it was 5% (6,632 compared to 6,316).

Jerry Karlin, Chair and Managing Trustee of Families Need Fathers, says:

"We have known for some time that people were exaggerating or making bogus allegations against former partners to secure legal aid in their private family disputes. We now know how widespread this is and we have seen how this appears to depend on where you live. False allegations used to steal legal aid and to use it to damage a child's relationship with an ex is the height of blind selfishness – and devastates the lives of children and parents. We need checks and balances to expose and discourage the weaponisation of the courts by angry and vengeful parents who discover that lying in court, in order to get legal aid and to exclude and hurt the other parent, is a profitable business. Legislation and proper process must applied to safeguard the real victims. Making bogus allegations of violence is fraud and must be dealt with."

The latest official statistics in respect of domestic violence orders were released by the Ministry of Justice on 27 September 2018. They covered April to June 2018 and revealed that during that period there were 6,127 applications made for a domestic violence remedy order, up 1% on the same quarter in 2017. Most of the applications were for non-molestation orders (81%) compared to occupation orders (19%). Similarly, of the 7,131 domestic violence orders made in April to June 2018, 93% were non-molestation orders and 7% were occupation orders. There has been a 5% increase in the number of non-molestation orders and a 12% decrease in the number of occupation orders compared to the equivalent quarter in 2017.

According to the Ministry of Justice, both non-molestation and occupation applications are maintaining a steady trend following fluctuations in previous recent quarters.

For the FNF report, click here.