What is an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)?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:

  • Unnecessary
  • 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.

AVO and Domestic Violence FAQs

Can an AVO be revoked or varied?

Yes. If there are good reasons why the AVO should no longer be in place or should be varied, then application can be made to the Local Court. This may happen if the parties reconcile or in circumstances where the party whom the defendant is prohibited from contacting continues to contact the defendant suggesting perhaps that there is no such need for such restrictive orders.

Can Undertakings be given instead of an AVO?

Yes – but only if all parties are willing and accepting of this outcome. The advantage of settling this type of matter with mutual undertakings is two-fold. Generally once undertakings are given, the parties will comply with them. If there is non-compliance, it is relatively easier to obtain a further AVO. Secondly, there is no criminal offence for breaching an Undertaking whereas there certainly is if there is an alleged breach of an AVO.

Of course the person who was seeking protection is under no obligation to accept undertakings and if they are genuinely fearful, it must be accepted that they will not accept undertakings.

Served with an AVO? Where to Now?

Seek expert advice. Generally speaking, you can consent to an AVO being made without admitting the reasons set out by the person making the application for the AVO. Alternatively, you can consent to the AVO being made and admit that the reasons set out in the application are genuine.

However, you might believe that there is absolutely no need for an AVO, in which case you can elect for the matter to be set down for hearing.

Some AVO applications are genuine and others are not. It is a very simple procedure for someone to make application for an AVO. If the application is made for some advantage or by falsifying a complaint, or as a pay back of some sort, then it is all too easy for that person to allege a breach of the order which would generate a criminal offence and put you at risk of serious penalties including imprisonment.

If you need advice from a criminal defence lawyer, contact one of our criminal law specialists immediately at either our Sydney or our Parramatta offices. Call 1800 NOT GUILTY or fill in our contact form on this page and arrange a free conference with a solicitor today. Contact our specialists right now! 24-hour legal advice 7 days a week.