battered spouse or cohabitant

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A person subjected to physical violence by their husband, wife, or cohabitant (subsequently referred to as ‘partner’ in this entry). Battered partners (or those afraid of future violence) may seek protection in a number of ways. Under the Family Law Act 1996 they can apply to the court for a non‐molestation order, directing the other partner not to molest, annoy, or use violence against them, or for an occupation order, entitling the applicant to remain in occupation of the matrimonial home and prohibiting, suspending, or restricting the abusive partner's right to occupy the house. Battered partners can apply for these orders if they are also applying for some other matrimonial relief (e.g. a divorce). The court must attach a power of arrest to a non‐molestation order or an occupation order if the abuser has used or threatened violence against his or her partner. This gives a constable the power to arrest the abuser without warrant if he or she is in breach of the order. In cases of emergency, an injunction without notice may be granted. A criminal prosecution for assault or for harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 may also be brought. Under the Housing Act 1985, local authorities have a duty to supply emergency accommodation to those made homeless when they have left their homes because of domestic violence.

Those who have been subjected to continued beatings by their partners over a period of time may plead provocation or diminished responsibility if charged with the murder of their partner.

Subjects: Law.

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