High Court rules that Non-Molestation Orders can be extended

21 July 2020

The High Court has delivered an important judgment in relation to the issue of whether the Domestic Proceedings Court has the power to extend Non-Molestation Orders. 

A challenge had been made by way of Judicial Review earlier this month by a victim of domestic abuse who stated that the Court Service of Northern Ireland had acted unlawfully by refusing to extend an emergency Non-Molestation Order that had been put in place to protect her against her perpetrator.

In a judgment delivered on 20th July 2020, the High Court ruled that the actions taken by the District Judge in his refusal to extend this lady’s Non-Molestation Order were wrong in law and declared that Article 24 of the Family Homes and Domestic Violence (NI) Order 1998 Order empowers a Court to vary a non‑molestation order by extending the date to which it has effect.

While the judgement has made it clear that Court has the power to extend Non-Molestation Orders, when considering whether to do so, the Court must apply a two-strand test: -

  1. The Court must consider what has happened in the period since the Non-Molestation Order was initially made. 
  2. The Court must consider what the overall context of the application is. 

Reference was made to coercive conduct over a long period of time being in itself “enough to persuade the Court to extend the order for a further short period”.

In this judgement, The Honourable Mr Justice O'Hara commented that in this present case, the applicant “is a woman who needs protection.  The law should be interpreted, as it can be, to allow the court to consider what if anything needs to be done to protect her rather than to say that the court cannot do anything unless a fresh application is presented to it.”  

It is clear that the primary purpose of the Family Homes & Domestic Violence (NI) Order 1998 is to protect victims of domestic abuse and so this judgement is not only welcomed but also provides some much-needed clarification to the law surrounding Non-Molestation Orders and the Court’s ability to extend same.

If you require any advice or assistance in relation to Non-Molestation Orders and protection from domestic abuse, please contact Karen Connolly confidentially on kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or via telephone on 028 9024 3901