The effect of Brexit upon the rights of domestic abuse victims

The effect of Brexit upon the rights of domestic abuse victims

Prior to the formal end of the transition period and the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31st December 2020, any protective order made in an EU member state would be recognised in the UK and vice versa, as though the order had been made in a domestic court.

This was a result of the Victims Rights Directive introduced in 2015 which ensured protective orders made in one member state were enforceable in another.

Unfortunately, the continuation of the Victims Rights Directive was not part of the withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and EU and so it is no longer in effect.

The UK Government has taken steps to incorporate it into UK law as part of retained EU law, under the European Union (withdrawal) Act 2018, but the EU has not taken any similar steps to reciprocate the position.

As we currently stand, any protective order made in an EU member state is enforceable in the UK, but a similar order made in the UK is not enforceable within the EU.

If survivors of domestic abuse wish to relocate or return to an EU country, even if only temporarily, they cannot rely on an order made in the UK to protect them while they are there. The only option would be for them to repeat the emotionally difficult process of applying for a similar order again in the other jurisdiction; not only forcing them to relive events, but also potentially inflaming the situation again when this is the last thing they need.

This is especially significant given the increase in applications relating to domestic abuse over the last few years, and especially as a result of the burden of Covid-19 restrictions, with applications up 21% over the final three months of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Therefore, until the EU takes steps to reciprocate the position, victims will be left in the difficult position of having no other option but to re-apply in an EU jurisdiction to replicate orders they already have in place in the UK.

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