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Women in refuges ‘at risk of having addresses revealed’

An organisation which runs refuges told Mrs Justice Knowles that victims’ addresses can be inadvertently revealed when court orders are served.

14 August 2022

Abuse victims living in women’s refuges are at risk of having their addresses disclosed if they become involved in family court litigation, a judge has been told.

An organisation running a number of refuges told Mrs Justice Knowles, based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, that victims’ addresses can be inadvertently revealed when court orders are served.

The organisation said the problem is a matter of public importance and wants a judge to outline the “difficult and complex” issues involved in a public ruling.

Mrs Justice Knowles is considering arguments as part of a case of a woman living in a refuge and involved in litigation centred on a child.

She has overseen a preliminary private hearing.

The judge gave reporters permission to report some details but said coverage must not reveal anything that may disclose the identity of the woman or child involved in the case.

A barrister representing the refuge organisation told Mr Justice Knowles that a public ruling which addresses the issues involved would help the group and police.

“It is submitted that there is a balancing exercise to be struck,” Charlotte Proudman said in a written submission.

“Balancing alongside the need to serve urgent court orders on mothers is the impact and effect of service of court orders on women in refuges.

“Refuges have no legal support and advice in a context where their paramount concern is to keep victims of domestic abuse safe, and this involves never disclosing their residential addresses which could easily become publicly known.

“When addresses enter the public sphere, the refuge needs to close down and relocate at a significant financial cost.”

Dr Proudman added: “The court is invited to give a judgment outlining the difficult and complex issue of service of family court orders on women in refuges.

“A judgment will assist the refuge, family courts and the … police in effecting service.”

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