phone 07881 511 200
Shopping cart
September 22, 2022

Worrying Rise in Use of Undertakings

For some time now, I have been noticing victims and survivors of domestic abuse are increasingly being fobbed off in the civil/family courts with Undertakings from perpetrators as opposed to securing a much more black-and-white Court Order against them such as a non-molestation order.

I am really concerned at this development, which I see, as setting a dangerous precedent – and may be a case of overburdened Courts seeking to rush through and deal with a backlog of cases which are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Undertaking is supposed to be a solemn and binding agreement made with the Court and/or with the other party in Court proceedings.

It may be that an Undertaking is a promise a perpetrator makes to refrain from certain actions (which might otherwise be set out in a Court Order) or, indeed, a promise he or she makes to do something active.    Sometimes an Undertaking can be made on top of a Court Order but, increasingly, it is being offered instead of one – and this is where the problem lies.  Even more concerning is when the court encourages a victim/survivor to accept cross undertakings, whereby the victim/survivor also promises to refrain from certain actions – whether they have admitted to doing them in the first place, or not!

Those who favour the use of Undertakings say, quite rightly, that they are legally enforceable.

But unlike a Court Order, such as a non-molestation order, where a breach of the terms of the order is automatically a criminal offence that can lead to a criminal record, and where police are obliged to arrest the perpetrator as soon as they become aware of it, enforcing a broken Undertaking actually takes victims back to yet another uncertain bout of legal wrangling.

To enforce an Undertaking the applicant has to lodge a fresh application for the perpetrator to be committed to prison, backed up by an affidavit.  This affidavit has to detail legally all the ways in which the Undertaking has been breached.   Normally, however, the perpetrator will be also given the opportunity to dispute these allegations – which, of course, most do!

Only if the court believes that an Undertaking has actually been broken can it imprison the wrongdoer (or impose a fine).  But even if and when the perpetrator is eventually imprisoned, the perpetrator has the chance to “purge” his or her contempt by making a formal apology backed up by an affidavit.  If he or she is successful in purging the contempt, the perpetrator may secure an immediate or deferred release.  And all of this takes time.  Time that victims and survivors of domestic abuse do not have if there has been a recent incident.

My advice here is very clear: don’t be fobbed off by an Undertaking which, ultimately, relies on trust rather than police enforcement.  And certainly, don’t agree to a cross undertaking as the perpetrator can then further his abuse by accusing YOU of breaching it when you haven’t.

  • I first met Sharon back in 2000 when I went into a refuge she worked in after fleeing a violent relationship. I had two babies and virtually just a bag of clothes and a few toys with us. She helped me with appointments with the police, solicitors and..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Sharon when she was the Advocacy Manager at Woman’s Trust and I was working for Westminster City Council. During this time Sharon developed and managed the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service..

    Ainslie O’Connor – Principal Advisor for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Adelaide, Australia.
  • Thank you so much for all the support you have given me. You really have been amazing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with Child Protection without you. The amount of strength you have given me is totally priceless, even with..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I knew Sharon as a work colleague over ten years ago. At the time, she was supporting vulnerable people, some of them were homeless due to domestic abuse and substance misuse. For me, assisting such people was what anyone in her role would be expect..

    Ted Chanza, Head of Market Operations, Airtel Malawi Ltd, Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa.
  • I have known Sharon for 6 years and have had the pleasure of working alongside her when I chaired the Westminster MARAC. Sharon is a committed, empathetic supporter of women who are or have experienced domestic abuse. She regularly goes the extra m..

    Former Chair of The Westminster MARAC.
  • I was fortunate to have had Sharon as my support worker after 17 years of domestic violence and 4 children that had witnessed and gone through it with me. I was finally strong enough to stand up and protect myself and my children. Without Sharon’s ..

    A survivor of domestic violence.
  • Without the support and constant reassurance of Sharon, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her. She is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable, having her on my side when dealing with someone as persistent..

    Anonymous survivor of Domestic Abuse.
Read All