Domestic abusers to receive ‘non-molestation orders’ via WhatsApp

Domestic abusers will have bans on contacting victims issued via WhatsApp or email under Government rule changes to prevent them hiding from court orders.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is set to amend court rules so that officials no longer have to issue a "non molestation" order in person but can instead do it by phone, email or on WhatsApp.

Ministers believe the move, first piloted during the pandemic, will mean the 36,000 domestic abusers issued with the bans each year will not be able to escape the orders by changing address or staying away from their homes.

Any breach of an order once issued is a criminal offence, with courts able to impose a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Justice minister Chris Philp told The Telegraph: "We always put victims first and never more so than during the pandemic. Using technology like this we can deliver swifter justice and ensure perpetrators cannot evade punishment by hiding from court orders."

The orders ban abusers from using or threatening physical violence, intimidating, harassing, pestering or communicating with their victim.

It can also prevent the abuser coming within a certain distance of a victim, their home address or even attending their place of work.

The new move comes after a pilot which was launched last year when social distancing during the pandemic meant court documents could not be served in person on abusers’ doorsteps.

The Family Procedure Rule Committee has now backed the MoJ plans to ensure courts will always be able to let victims seek remote service.

Traditionally, once the order was approved, victims were required by courts to arrange for the court order to be served in person to an abuser, often by a third party at the perpetrator’s address. Courts had discretion to allow alternative service, but this was often not used.

Because of social distancing during the pandemic, rules were clarified to allow courts the discretion to approve service in other ways. Proof that the order has been delivered has been possible due to systems such as "read notifications" or tracked email.

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