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Criminal Defence Articles

What happens the first time you get a Restraint Order?

In recent years, the UK has seen a notable increase in the use of restraint orders as a means to prevent harm and manage potentially dangerous situations before they escalate. These legal instruments are crucial in protecting individuals and the public, but they also carry significant implications for those on whom they are imposed. Understanding what it means to receive a restraint order, the process involved, and the immediate effects it can have on one’s life is essential. This article aims to shed light on these aspects, offering a comprehensive overview for anyone facing a restraint order for the first time.

What is a restraint order?

A restraint order in the UK is a legal directive issued by a court to prevent an individual from engaging in specific actions or behaviours that are deemed harmful or potentially illegal. These orders are part of the broader legal framework designed to protect individuals and the public from harm.

Restraint orders can vary widely in their scope and nature, including:

  • preventing contact with certain individuals
  • restricting movement to specified areas
  • limiting financial transactions

They are typically used in situations where there is a need to protect someone from potential harm or to prevent the escalation of potentially harmful situations.

The legal basis for restraint orders can be found in various statutes, depending on the context in which they are issued, such as family law, criminal law, or civil proceedings. This means that you could be issued with a restraint order for various different reasons.

What is the process of receiving a restraint order?

The process of receiving a restraint order begins when an application is made to a court, usually by the police, a solicitor, or an individual who believes they are at risk. The applicant must provide sufficient evidence to convince the court that the order is necessary for protection or to prevent potential harm. Once the application is submitted, the court reviews the evidence and decides whether to issue the order. If the court decides to issue a restraint order, it will specify the terms, which must be clearly outlined and served to the individual it concerns.

Typically when receiving a restraint order, the following will happen:

  • Initial Application: An application for a restraint order is made to a court. This can be done by the police, a solicitor on behalf of a client, or an individual who feels threatened or at risk.
  • Review of Application: The court reviews the application to assess the necessity and validity of the request for a restraint order. This involves evaluating the evidence presented to support the need for such an order.
  • Temporary or Interim Order (if applicable): In urgent situations, the court may issue a temporary or interim order to provide immediate protection until a full hearing can be scheduled.
  • Service of Notice: The individual against whom the restraint order is sought (the respondent) is given notice of the application and the hearing date, ensuring they have an opportunity to present their side.
  • Court Hearing: A court hearing is held where both parties (the applicant and the respondent) can present evidence and arguments regarding the necessity of the restraint order.
  • Decision by the Court: After considering the evidence and arguments, the court decides whether to issue the restraint order, modify the terms of the proposed order, or dismiss the application.
  • Issuance of the Restraint Order: If the court decides to issue a restraint order, it will specify the terms, which detail the restrictions placed on the respondent’s behaviour and activities.
  • Service of the Restraint Order: The restraint order is formally served to the respondent by a law enforcement officer or another designated official. The respondent is informed about the terms of the order and the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Compliance Period: The respondent must comply with the terms of the restraint order for the duration specified by the court. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties, including arrest.
  • Review or Expiry: The restraint order remains in effect until the expiry date set by the court, unless a review or appeal is requested and granted, leading to a modification or early termination of the order.

Understanding each step in this process can help individuals navigate the complexities of receiving a restraint order and ensure they respond appropriately to comply with legal requirements.

What are the effects of a first-time restraint order?

With a restraint order in place, you’ll find certain restrictions applied to your daily life – even if you are receiving one for the first time.

Obtaining a restraining order, often referred to as a Non-Molestation Order or an Injunction, can have several effects and consequences for both the person who obtains the order (the applicant) and the person against whom the order is issued (the respondent). The specific details and effects may vary depending on the circumstances and the type of order issued. Here are some of the most common effects – for applicants and respondents – of restraining orders:

  • Protection from harassment or abuse: The primary purpose of a restraining order is to protect the applicant (the victim) from further harassment, violence, or unwanted contact by the respondent (the alleged perpetrator).
  • Prohibiting contact: The order typically includes specific terms that prohibit the respondent from contacting or approaching the applicant, both directly and indirectly. This can include physical contact, phone calls, text messages, emails, or any other forms of communication.
  • Exclusion from a specific area: In some cases, the court may specify certain areas or locations from which the respondent is prohibited. For example, the respondent may be barred from coming near the applicant’s home, workplace, or children’s school.
  • Custody and access arrangements: In cases involving children, a restraining order can also outline custody and access arrangements, ensuring the safety and well-being of the children.
  • Surrender of firearms and weapons: If the respondent possesses firearms or weapons, the court may order them to surrender these items during the duration of the restraining order.
  • Enforcement and penalties: Violating the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offence, and the respondent may face penalties, including fines or imprisonment, for any breaches.
  • Civil and family court proceedings: Obtaining a restraining order often involves legal proceedings in civil or family court, where the applicant must present evidence and convince the court that the order is necessary for their protection.
  • Duration: The duration of a restraining order can vary depending on the circumstances and the type of order issued. Some orders may be temporary, while others can be in place for an extended period, or even permanently. Some need to be renewed every six months or a year.
  • Notification to relevant authorities: In some cases, the court may notify the police and other relevant authorities about the existence of the restraining order to ensure enforcement.
  • Impact on employment and housing: Having a restraining order can affect the respondent’s employment and housing opportunities, as it may show up in background checks.

A solicitor with experience in restraint orders should be consulted to fully understand the implications and specific details of a restraining order in your particular situation, as the laws and procedures can vary depending on the circumstances.

How do you comply with a restraint order?

Legally, you’re required to strictly follow every detail of the restraint order. This means avoiding any prohibited actions, like contacting certain individuals or going to restricted places. You might also be required to take specific actions, such as attending counselling or surrendering any firearms you own.

Not adhering to the order can lead to serious consequences, including arrest and criminal charges. The penalties can be severe, ranging from fines to imprisonment, and any violation could lead to even stricter terms being added to your order or an extension of its duration.

How do you challenge a restraint order?

You have the right to challenge the restraint order, whether you wish to contest its terms or argue against its existence altogether. This typically involves legal proceedings where you can present evidence or argue that circumstances have changed, there’s new evidence, or there were legal errors when the order was issued.

Challenging the order means you’ll go through a legal process, potentially presenting your case in court. The outcomes can vary widely, from minor adjustments to the terms of your order to a complete dismissal. Success in challenging the order usually requires strong evidence or a compelling argument to convince the court of the need for change.

Where to get more help

If you or someone you care about is facing a restraint order for the first time, or you have already had one issued against you, getting advice from an experienced and impartial criminal defence solicitor is your best move. Having a solicitor onside not only means you get advice on what is happening throughout the process, but it also ensures that your rights are protected and the impact on your life is minimal. Contact the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free consultation about your options.


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