Breaches of orders

A protective order aims to help keep someone safe. The conditions of the order tell the person whom the order is made against what they are not allowed to do. If they do any of those things, then they have breached the conditions of the order.

If an order is breached, you may be able to call the Police. It is a good idea to have the copy of the protective order with you so that you can explain it to the Police.

What happens next will depend on the type of order and the way the order was written. Not all breaches of protective orders can be managed by the Police.

Find out more about the different protective orders

Contempt of court

Breaches of civil orders are usually managed using ‘contempt of court’. (Examples of civil orders include Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Occupation Orders.)

Breaching a civil court order can result in enforcement, including a warning, fine or short period of time in prison.

The Police can only arrest for a breach if there is either a ‘Power of Arrest’ attached to the order, or the court has been notified of the breach and a decision has been made to instruct the Police to arrest.

If the order has ‘Power of Arrest’ attached you can call the Police and report the breach, explaining that ‘Power of Arrest’ is attached.

The Police should arrest and bring before the Magistrates court within 24 hours.

It is usually helpful to keep a copy of the order with you to explain the conditions of the order. If the order does not have ‘Powers of Arrest’ you will need to apply to the court to help decide how the breach will be dealt with. Unless a breach of the order is a criminal offence, such as non-molestation orders and stalking protection orders for example. In this case the Police should arrest and investigate.

Criminal offence

Where a breach is a criminal offence, (Non-Molestation Orders, Stalking Protection Orders FGM & Forced Marriage Orders for example) the Police can arrest because a crime has been committed. The Police should investigate the breach as a criminal offence. This may take longer than bringing the breach before the civil courts because the evidence will need to be gathered and presented to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) and it will need to meet the criminal standard of proof (Beyond all reasonable doubt) for the breach to be prosecuted in criminal court. If the breach is proved then they alleged abuser could face up to five years in prison for the breach if the case is heard in front of a jury. In most cases breaches will be heard by Magistrates.

Dual mechanism of enforcement

The dual mechanism of enforcement refers to both methods of managing breaches (outlined above) being available. However, it is very rare that the breach would be returned to civil courts if breaching the order has been made a criminal offence. You may be able to apply to the civil court to have the breach heard for contempt of court however there may be legal and court costs involved to do this.