You may have seen the recent signs placed about that say “Police say No to Domestic Violence”.  The campaign is obviously designed to address the issue in our society with domestic violence.

In New South Wales the law provides that the police must take out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) on behalf of a victim if there has been an act of domestic violence or there is perceived domestic violence. In brief, an AVO is an order by the court restraining a party from assaulting, harassing, molesting or stalking another person.  An AVO order may specify other restraints such as not contacting the victim or entering the victim’s place of residence.

If an  Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) order is made by the court, it does not necessarily mean that the defendant has committed an offence and the making of the order does not provide the defendant with a criminal record.   Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) orders are made for a specified period, usually 1 or 2 years.

In some cases the police are called to an incident by a neighbour and after assessing what has happened take out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).  These types of orders are known as Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders.  It may be that the victim does not want an AVO against his or her partner but the important factor is that it is the police who are the applicants before the court and it is a matter for the police to decide whether the application should proceed.

Persons who are not in a domestic relationship with the offender may take out a Personal Apprehended Violence Order.  In these cases, the victim, not the police, is the applicant before the court.  These types of orders are usually taken out against unrelated family members such as neighbours or work colleagues.

The court needs to be satisfied that the victim is in need of protection because he or she has fears which are reasonable that the defendant might cause them harm.

When the matter first comes before the court the applicant is asked by the Magistrate whether an order is still required.  If the answer is “yes”, the defendant has three options:

  1. The defendant can consent to an order without admissions.  This means that the defendant is telling the court that he or she does not agree with the complaint but in any event agrees to comply with the conditions of the order.  If the defendant later breaches the order the police can be charge them with a criminal offence;
  2. The defendant can ask the applicant to accept undertakings.  Undertakings are a promise to the court that the defendant agrees to do the things contained in the order.  An undertaking is different to an order in that, if the victim alleges a breach of the undertaking, it does not allow the police to charge the defendant with a breach of AVO, if the evidence is sufficient.  It merely allows the applicant to reapply for an AVO based on the breach of undertaking;
  3. The defendant can contest the making of the order in which case the court will list the matter for a hearing at a later date.  The court will make directions that the parties are to file statements of their evidence in advance of the formal hearing.

Although the making of an AVO does not mean the defendant has a criminal record there are some potential consequences of an order being made.  For example, in may prevent the defendant from working in some occupations such as a security guard or occupations involving contact with children.  In some cases, it may restrict a person’s ability to travel overseas to some countries.