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What evidence is needed for an occupation order?

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Occupation orders are a type of injunction used to protect victims of domestic abuse by removing their abuser from the family home and preventing them from returning. The process of obtaining an occupation order can be extremely challenging, and many people are often unsure how to begin the process. In this article, we explore what evidence you need to successfully obtain an occupation order.

When applying for an occupation order, the burden of proof lies with the applicant. They must convince the court that the order is necessary for their protection and that any imposed restrictions on the other party in respect of their right to occupy the property are justifiable.

The court will take a range of factors into account when deciding whether or not to grant an occupation order, including the welfare of any children involved, the housing needs of the parties, and their conduct. Success rates of occupation orders vary. According to recent statistics, it is around 60%. Factors that can affect the success rate include the availability of alternative accommodation and the strength of evidence presented to the court. If you are to increase your chances of winning an occupation order application, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible. This can include witness statements, photographs, and medical records.

Proof of legal right to the property

Providing a copy of your mortgage, lease, or tenancy agreement can serve as proof of your legal right to live in the property and strengthen your application. Utility bills or a council tax bill in your name/joint names with your partner may also help demonstrate residence at the property.

Witness statements

Good quality evidence is essential if an individual is to secure an occupation order, and witness statements are excellent vehicles for providing first-hand accounts of particular incidents. They can also provide useful testimony from third parties who may have seen or heard the alleged abuse.

Witness statements should be taken as soon as possible whilst the incident is fresh in everyone’s mind, and contain the person’s full name, address, and contact information. The statement should also set out in detail what the witness has seen and/or heard, including the date(s)/time(s) of the incident(s) in question.

Providing a timeline of incidents leading up to the application and setting out a schedule of physical evidence supporting their claims will also help the court. A solicitor will be able to help collate the necessary information in the most appropriate format.

Police reports/records

Police reports on incidents documenting reference numbers of police call-outs to your home will help to prove and confirm times/dates for events relied upon in witness statements.

Medical evidence

Medical evidence can include hospital records, GP notes, and other medical documents detailing any physical or psychological injuries suffered by the victim. In cases involving serious injury, it is essential to get medical documentation to support the claim.

Photographic evidence

Photographic evidence can also be useful in an occupation order case. Pictures of the scene or injuries can help demonstrate to the court that abuse has occurred. If the victim cannot take photographs themselves, someone else, such as a close friend or family member, may need to be tasked with this.

Evidence in respect of children

School reports or letters from teachers that indicate how the home situation of the child has affected them will be helpful. As will medical records showing emotional or physical effects arising from the child’s home environment.

Audio/visual recordings

Audio/visual recordings can also provide valuable evidence to support an occupation order application. Audio recordings of threatening or harassing behaviour can be used to prove that abuse has happened. Video footage of the victim being abused can also be used as evidence.

Electronic evidence

Electronic evidence such as emails, text messages, and other forms of online communication can be useful and help establish a pattern of conduct or abuse, particularly if they contain threats.

The important role of the victim in gathering evidence

Victims of domestic abuse have an important role to play in gathering evidence of the abuse they have experienced in order to support their application for an occupation order. Keep copies of all documents relating to your case, such as previous reports, applications, courts orders, and any other relevant records.

Gathering evidence increases your chances of success, so seek support from police, medical professionals, and social workers. Take steps to preserve evidence, such as recording conversations or taking photographs when incidents happen, and keep copies of all documents you believe are relevant to your case.

The role of the authorities in gathering evidence

Utilising the authorities is paramount when gathering evidence to support an occupation order application. There are several steps the authorities can take to gather evidence of abuse or harassment. This includes obtaining testimony from witnesses, collecting physical evidence, and monitoring communications between the alleged perpetrator and victim. It helps if victims report incidents of abuse or harassment to the police as and when they happen.

What are the challenges in gathering evidence for an occupation order?

Abuse and harassment often happen in private which can therefore make it difficult to provide a court with tangible evidence. Sometimes, victims feel too ashamed or scared to speak out or present evidence. Taking screenshots of text messages, collecting photographs or audio recordings, and documenting all instances of abuse or harassment are all ways to preserve evidence. Victims should also keep detailed records of interactions with the perpetrator and other witnesses to give the court a clear picture of the situation.

When presenting their evidence to the court, the victim must ensure it is clear and concise and explain the reasons for making the application. Sometimes, it is problematic rallying witnesses to appear in court to give evidence. This could be for a variety of reasons, but most commonly centre on being asked difficult questions by the respondent’s solicitor and presenting the information in open court, fearing they will make a mistake.

It may also be difficult to obtain police records without a court order. If the order is made granting the release of such records, there is a fee for this, not to mention the time it takes for the information to be made available. This could delay future hearings.

Applying for an occupation order is a significant step that requires thorough preparation. By gathering comprehensive and relevant evidence, you strengthen your case and pave the way for a decision to go in your favour. By understanding the types of evidence required and organising them effectively, you take an essential step towards securing you and your family’s safety.

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