Q: My son, in his twenties and living with me, is on a cocktail of drugs for a medical condition. He is very bright but is autistic and prone to depression. Recently he has become aggressive towards me when he is unwell. Last week he attacked me and I ended up in hospital. The police were called and he was sectioned. I have no idea what happens next. Can the police charge him with assault if I don’t press charges?
A. If you refuse to make a statement of complaint, the Police can still proceed if there is corroborating evidence such as CCTV video or body camera footage and can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed on this hearsay evidence. In practice, this is generally avoided because it denies the defendant’s legal representative the opportunity to cross examine the victim if the defendant enters a not guilty plea to a charge of assault.
Because of this problem victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to press charges, which is why Domestic Violence Prevention Orders (DVPOs) and Domestic Violence Prevention Notices (DVPNs) were introduced in 2014. The DVPO is a civil order which enables police and magistrates’ courts to put in place protective measures in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident, where there is insufficient evidence to charge a perpetrator and provide protection to the victim.
Now that your son has been sectioned under The Mental Health Act 1983, the risks to his own health, to his own safety, and to others - especially you - will be assessed. As you are his mother and he lives with you, you are his ‘Nearest Relative’ under the Act and should be contacted by your son’s Approved Mental Health Professional. A mental health lawyer can help you establish what rights you have as Nearest Relative, and what you can do to ensure that his treatment meets his needs, and his aftercare post-discharge keeps him and you safe.
This question has been answered by Elzbeth Kenny and Andy Howarth, solicitors with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website www.ghplegal.com and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194