Reported For Domestic Abuse; What Happens Next?
Finding oneself accused of domestic abuse can be an extremely stressful experience, particularly as recent crackdowns have sent public awareness of this particular type of offence skyrocketing. As a result, if you are the subject of domestic abuse allegations, not only are you now more likely to be jailed but the nature of your conviction could result in your personal and professional life being heavily affected.
Domestic abuse can take a number of forms, including psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the term “domestic abuse” is defined as “any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.” There have been recent additions to the behaviours that are legally considered to constitute domestic abuse, including that of “coercive control”. As a result, many individuals are not aware that their actions may now be interpreted in a way that falls under this umbrella when this may not have been the case at another time.
In this guide, the family law solicitors at DPP Law answer the question, “what happens if I’m reported for domestic abuse?” They will also go on to explain the court proceedings and sentencing guidelines in cases such as these and outline the ways in which you may be able to fight domestic abuse allegations.
The Prosecution Process
With any alleged offence, complainants – in other words, the individuals making the accusations – will need to gather suitable evidence with the aid of the prosecution in order to bring about any domestic abuse court cases. This evidence is usually required to be made up – to the tune of about two-thirds – of eye-witness accounts, with the rest comprising of fingerprint evidence or other forensic or scientific proof.
Once the complainant reports you for domestic abuse, an Initial Crime Investigation will be launched in order to collect evidence against you. You will be arrested and interviewed as part of this process and once it is considered that enough proof has been accrued, this information will be passed on to the local Procurator Fiscal in the form of a report. After examining this report, the Procurator Fiscal will then decide whether there is suitable evidence to take the case to court.
The complainant will almost certainly utilise the assistance of legal aid throughout and will receive an enhanced service at the hands of the police and Crown Prosecution Service, meaning that they will be given regular updates regarding major developments in the case. For this reason, it is important that you too make contact with an experienced and trusted solicitor as soon as you know you are likely to be accused of domestic abuse.
DPP Law has over 30 years of experience in representing clients in cases of this kind. Their specialist solicitors have collected evidence, spoken with witnesses, cross-examined the prosecution’s case and built a powerful and successful defence in numerous domestic abuse court cases.
If it is ruled that there is enough evidence against you to take the case to court, you will have a right to a jury trial, giving you the opportunity to prove your innocence as an individual accused of domestic abuse.
After you have been arrested, you may be released on bail and given a date to attend a hearing, or you may be remanded in custody. This depends on the seriousness of the offences you allegedly committed, the strength of the evidence against you and the perceived likelihood of your “re-offending”.
Once you have appeared in court for the first time, you will be given the opportunity to plead either guilty or not guilty to the offence in question. You can change your plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” at any time.
It is vital to have legal representation with you at all times when in court or making any statement to the police or prosecution. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of what your plea should be, along with what you should and should not say throughout court proceedings. You will always have the right to refuse to answer particular questions.
After the Trial: Sentencing
If you plead guilty – or the jury decides on a guilty verdict – there are a range of sentences you may face. The type and severity of the punishment will depend on the perceived seriousness of the offence with which you have been convicted. Legal aid can assist you here too – a good lawyer may be able to get your sentence commuted to a lesser one, and, in some cases, may help you to avoid a custodial term altogether.
Whether you are convicted or acquitted, the court may consider the appropriateness of the complainant obtaining a restraining order against you.
If you are convicted, you may face a community order or penalty, a rehabilitative order enforced and managed by the Probation Service (including mandatory attendance at counselling sessions), a fine or a prison sentence. In the most severe cases involving GBH or wounding with intent, those found guilty of domestic abuse may face life imprisonment.
In response to individuals asking “what happens if I’m reported for domestic abuse?”, the answer varies greatly depending on:
- The nature and severity of the alleged abuse
- The strength of the prosecution’s case
- The strength of the evidence you and your legal representative are able to collect and the defence you are able to build
As someone accused of domestic abuse, you must be prepared for all areas of your life to be investigated – including your text messages, emails and social media activity. The best way to fight allegations of domestic abuse is to get in touch with an expert lawyer or solicitor as soon as you are made aware that this investigation is likely to take place. That specialist will then cross-examine the “proof” that has already been collected. They will then help you to gather your own evidence to counter the claims that are being made.
A good legal representative will present an expert defence in court if this is necessary and may see you acquitted. If not, they may succeed in commuting your sentence from a more severe prison term to a lesser order or fine.
A specialist DPP Law can assist you further with the answer to the question “what happens if I’m reported for domestic abuse?” by listening to the precise details of your case. They will then discuss with you the best course of action moving forward. Contact them today on 0333 200 5859.