July 4, 2023

We’ve all heard the clichés – AVOs (Apprehended Violence Orders) are “just a piece of paper” or, worse, they’re “not worth the paper they’re written on”. Of course what these sayings reflect is the tragic persistence of violence that has long frustrated victims and their advocates, and their argument for systemic social change to reduce its prevalence.

However, while AVOs may be controversial for a number of reasons – and are certainly no silver bullet – they have an important role to play that should not be dismissed.

According to a 2015 survey by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (reported in the Sydney Morning Herald), 98 per cent of women who experienced physical violence no longer did after taking out an AVO.

“There are breaches but what would the world look like if we don’t have these orders. The answer is a lot worse,” the Bureau’s director, Dr Don Weatherburn, said at the time.

Apprehended Violence Orders are either classed as Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (where the parties are in an intimate or family relationship) or Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (for instance where the parties are neighbours or work together).

An AVO can be issued as a result of someone going to the police and it is possible that the police also bring additional charges, such as for assault. In 2014, NSW police were given new powers to issue on-the-spot AVOs in domestic violence cases.

Alternatively, an AVO can be applied for by anyone aged 16 years or older at a Local Court. Either way, the application will be served on the defendant by the police. The application will give a date and time on which the matter is listed for Court and those involved should not miss that date.

The alleged victim is known as the Protected Person (PP) or Person in Need of Protection in the case of an ADVO (catchily abbreviated to PINOP) and the alleged perpetrator is known as the Defendant (and sometimes referred to by the police as the ‘Perp’).

“Grounds for issue of an AVO include not only physical violence but also intimidating behaviour causing fear.”

If the police have sought the AVO, they will be in charge of the case and the PP/PINOP will not generally need a lawyer and, in the case of an ADVO, there will usually be a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer (DVLO) to help him or her through the process.

If the AVO is instigated by the Applicant, then he or she will need to conduct the case by themselves and may need legal help to do so effectively. There may be cost consequences for bringing a personal AVO which is defended by the other party and ultimately not granted.

A Defendant should take service with an AVO seriously and not simply concede because it is too hard or too expensive to defend. With legal help, it may be possible to negotiate a reasonable outcome such as agreeing upon mutual undertakings to refrain from certain types of behaviour without admission rather than proceeding to a final AVO.

If no agreement is reached, the matter will be adjourned and proceed to a hearing. Generally, an interim AVO will be made pending finalisation of the matter and breach of this has the same effect as the breach of a final AVO.

Grounds for issue of an AVO include not only physical violence but also intimidating behaviour causing fear – including, for instance, making numerous and unwanted phone calls, sending threatening messages via electronic media, hacking a person’s social media or email account to stalk them or impersonate them, sharing intimate pictures or using surveillance devices.

An AVO will contain orders not to assault, molest, harass, threaten, interfere with, intimidate or stalk the PP/PINOP and may contain extra conditions regarding not approaching the person or their place of residence or work, and restrictions on behaviour after taking drugs or alcohol depending on the circumstances of the case. It will state a period of time for it to last and it may be extended upon expiration where a Court sees fit.

At the same time, the Court can also make a Property Recovery Order allowing the Defendant or PP/PINOP to collect personal property from certain premises, possibly accompanied by the police.

If an AVO is made, the Defendant does not instantly get a criminal record, however, other consequences may follow such as automatic revocation of his or her firearms licence. The granting of an AVO can also have significant consequences if the parties are involved in a family law matter.

Breach of an AVO is a very serious matter and may result in being charged with a criminal offence. Such an offence must be proved beyond reasonable doubt as it results in a criminal record. It is therefore important to abide carefully by the terms of an AVO. Near enough is not good enough!

If you have been served with an AVO or need assistance with making an application to the court for an AVO protecting you from someone else, contact us on 9976 5222.