Ministry of Justice drags feet on domestic violence data

Divorce|May 24th 2017

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has been reprimanded by the Information Commissioner for failing to respond to a request for domestic violence data in a timely manner.

An unnamed complainant had sent the Ministry a very detailed Freedom of Information request for data from the third quarter of the year relating to the various legal orders available when an allegation of domestic violence has been made. These included non-molestation orders, occupancy orders and prohibited steps orders, each broken down by family court and judicial area.

Non-molestation orders prohibit contact between the complainant and the person who is the subject of the order. Occupancy orders, meanwhile, specify which party in divorce proceedings may continue to live in the family home or surrounding area. And as the name suggests, Prohibited Steps order specify actions that the subject may not take: for example, taking the child of a divorcing couple out of the country.

The inquirer also asked for the data relating to non-molestation orders and occupancy orders to be broken into various categories – whether they were issued with notice to the subject of the order or ex parte (without notice), as well as by the gender of the applicants.

In addition, the person asked for in-depth data on the many different types of supporting evidence available when one party in a divorcing or separating couple alleges domestic violence. These include unspent convictions; police cautions; injunctions still in force; letters from doctors; letters from social services departments and courtroom findings of fact.

The complainant made their Freedom of Information request on 15 December last year. The MoJ acknowledged receipt of the application the following day but by late January had still not released the information. Under section 10 of the Freedom of Information Act, government departments are required to fully respond within 20 working days of receiving a Freedom of Information application.

The inquirer contacted the Information Commissioner’s (ICO) office in late January to alert them to the continuing absence of a response. But even after the ICO subsequently wrote to the Ministry requesting a response within 10 days the data remained unreleased.

The enquirer then returned to the ICO. In a newly published notice, the Information Commission subsequently determined that the Ministry had indeed breached the Freedom of Information Act.

The ICO specified a fresh deadline of 35 days for full compliance with the original application or the issue of a valid refusal notice, as specified by section 17 of the Act. Failure to meet this deadline could lead the Commissioner to report the Ministry to the High Court, resulting in a possible contempt of court charge.

You can read more here.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(2)

  1. Stitchedup says:

    This would make interesting reading and I would be interested to know figures for the types of breaches that have occurred to get a handle on how many people, mostly men of course, are being convicted for petty breaches and benign actions that would usually be considered normal human behaviour, not unreasonable and certainly not criminal, eg speaking. I’m not sure who has requested this but I would wager that the MoJ are a little nervous about releasing such data as it could well expose this domestic abuse hysteria for what it is, expose the gender bias in the courts and expose the sickening, immoral, unscrupulous gamesmanship employed by legal professionals to gain the upper hand during divorce and separation. It’s really uncanny how couples can live together for 20 or 30 years, have domestic disagreements and resolve disagreements without any suggestion of domestic abuse and get on with family life; yet as soon as divorce or separation is on the cards and solicitors get involved the allegations start flowing.

  2. Richard Nixon says:

    I am the complainant had sent the Ministry a very detailed Freedom of Information request for data on family court and civil legal aid and I have been doing this every 3 months for 3 years since my member of parliament first asked questions in parliament in Feb 2014 about NMOs @ Horsham Family Court and he recently asked written questions again in parliament last month:

    From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers [mailto:NO_REPLY.HC.QASYSTEM@parliament.uk]
    Sent: 25 July 2017 15:17
    To: SMITH, Henry
    Subject: Written answer to your WPQ 5186 received from the Ministry of Justice
    The Ministry of Justice has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (5186): Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many non-molestation orders were issued that led to legal aid funding being granted at (a) courts in England and (b) Horsham County Court in (i) 2014-15, (ii) 2015-16 and (iii) 2016-17. (5186) Tabled on: 17 July 2017
    Answer from Dominic Raab: The information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. The answer was submitted on 25 Jul 2017 at 15:16.

    and

    From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers [mailto:NO_REPLY.HC.QASYSTEM@parliament.uk]
    Sent: 25 July 2017 15:16
    To: SMITH, Henry
    Subject: Written answer to your WPQ 5185 received from the Ministry of Justice

    The Ministry of Justice has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (5185):

    Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many of non-molestation orders were issued by (a) courts in England and (b) Horsham County Court in (i) 2014-15, (ii) 2015-16 and (iii) 2016-17. (5185) Tabled on: 17 July 2017

    Answer from Dominic Raab: The table below sets out the numbers of non-molestation orders issued by courts in England and, specifically, by Horsham County Court in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

    Table 1. Number of domestic violence non-molestation orders issued in England and Horsham County Court

    Year England Horsham County Court

    14-15 23,482 53

    15-16 23,335 55

    16-17 23,724 87

    The answer was submitted on 25 Jul 2017 at 15:15.

    The FOI data that I have received shows the largest increases in NMOs in Sussex and Midlands area which Derby Family Court having the highest increase of 500% from 2011 to 2016. The Legal Aid data showing who get legal aid for family court proceedings but is based on the local authority area that they live in rather than the family court that they obtain and NMOs. NMOs are the largest reason that people get legal aid followed by a report from a GP or Health Care Professional.

    I have also had a General Regulatory Chamber hearing in 2015 about the redacting of some of this FOI data by the Ministry of Justice where they redact NMO and Occupancy Order data where the number of order given by an individual court in any quarter is 5 or less http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKFTT/GRC/2016/2015_0206.html

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