What is an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)?
Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) aim to protect a person (the PINOP – person in need of protection) from violence, stalking, harassment or intimidation by another. This usually involves people in a relationship, but may involve unrelated people such as neighbours.
AVOs are sometimes also known as restraining orders. The intention behind the legislation is good. Some people need protection and some people need a Court Order to ‘behave’.
The Order itself is not a criminal record or conviction, but an Order of the Court. Sometimes people think that since it is simply an Order, there is no harm or risk in consenting to the AVO. How wrong could you be?
What are the different types of AVO?
There are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders:
Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO)
An Apprehended Domestic Violence Order is made where the people involved are related, living together or in an intimate relationship, or have previously been in this situation.
Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO)
An Apprehended Personal Violence Order is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship, for example, they are neighbours or work together.
What types of conditions can be put in an Apprehended Violence Order?
If an Order is made, three conditions will always be included. These conditions prohibit the following behaviour:
- Assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening or interfering with the Protected Person;
- Intimidating the Protected Person; and
- Stalking the Protected Person. Anyone in a domestic relationship with the Protected Person is also protected by these conditions. This may include children.
Extra conditions may be included in the Order prohibiting the defendant from:
- Approaching the Protected Person;
- Approaching or entering places where the Protected Person may live, work or go to;
- Approaching the Protected Person, or places where the Protected Person may be, after drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs;
- Damaging property; and/or
- Any other conditions as agreed by both parties or decided by the court.
How is an AVO obtained?
The problem with Apprehended Violence Orders is that they are so simple to get and are often used unnecessarily. Obtaining an AVO, at least on a provisional basis, is as easy as making a complaint to a Court or to a police officer.
Complaints do not have to be acted upon, but it is rare that they are not. While applications are often justified, sometimes they arise from a highly emotional response, knee-jerk reaction or attempt at ‘payback’.
If you feel that an AVO against you is not justified, you need to consider what to do.
One option is to consent to the Order. It can save costs and having to take time off work to attend Court – but at what risk?
The other option is to defend the AVO. In some cases the matter can be settled without a formal Order recorded.
Defending an AVO
Defending an Apprehended Violence Order can be difficult for various reasons:
1) Proof is on the balance of probabilities, rather than the higher criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
2) Applications are often taken out by police on behalf of the PINOP. You may be in a position where that person is legally represented by a police prosecutor and you are not.
3) Most allegations occur where there are no witnesses, and it is your word against that of someone else.
Often orders will be sought that are ‘interim’ that apply between your first court date and the date of hearing. These orders can be opposed.
How long does an AVO last?
The relevant period is specified on the Apprehended Violence Order. This is usually anywhere from 6 months – 2 years.
What is the impact of a breached AVO?
If you breach an Apprehended Violence Order, you risk a criminal conviction and record. Penalties can also apply, ranging from steep fines to imprisonment.
You might be forced to move out of your house, prevented or restricted from seeing your children, or from going to or near a particular location.
If you believe the AVO was:
- Obtained by a false complaint
- Obtained for some advantage, such as preventing one parent from seeing their children
Then the granting of the Order can have drastic implications.
How easy is it for a person to ring the police and claim that you swore at them, intimidated them, harassed or assaulted them – when you know that is a lie?
On receiving such a complaint, police would ordinarily take action against you which could involve arrest, refusal of bail or conditional bail, and the need to attend Court.
That is why you need the help of an expert. Our AVO and Domestic Violence Lawyers in Sydney are available 24/7 to assist you.