What is an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)?
Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) are meant to exist to prevent physical violence, stalking, harassment and intimidation of a person (the PINOP – person in need of protection) by another – usually involving people from a prior or current domestic relationship, but may involve unrelated people who do not have a domestic relationship, such as neighbours. They are sometimes also colloquially known as restraining orders.
The intention behind the legislation is good. Some people legitimately need protection just as some people need a Court Order to `behave’.
The AVO itself is not a criminal record or conviction – merely an Order of the Court. Sometimes people think that since the AVO is simply an Order, there is no harm or risk in consenting to the AVO being made. How wrong could you be?
How is an AVO obtained?
The problem with AVOs is that they are so simple to obtain 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. AVO applications typically arise from a highly emotional response – often justified no doubt, but sometimes a knee-jerk reaction or payback.
The ‘defendant’ who considers that an AVO has been obtained by a false complaint has to consider carefully what to do. Choices exist of consenting to the AVO being granted with or without admission as to the truth of the complaint. It saves costs, saves time in going back to Court or having to take time off work to attend Court – but at what risk? Alternatively, the application can be defended and in some circumstances attempts can be made to settle the matter by undertakings being given without the formality and consequences of an Order.
Defending an AVO
Successfully defending an application for an AVO sought by your spouse or former partner can be difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, applications need only be proved on the balance of probabilities, rather than the higher criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Secondly, applications are often taken out by police on the behalf of the alleged ‘PINOP’ so you may already find yourself in a position where your spouse or former spouse is legally represented by a police prosecutor and you are not. Thirdly, 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?
An AVO lasts for the period specified on the Apprehended Violence Order. This is typically anywhere from 6 months – 2 years.
What is the impact of a breached AVO?
If you breach an AVO, you risk a criminal conviction and criminal record as well as penalties that include steep fines or even imprisonment. You might be forced to move out of your house. You might be prevented or restricted from seeing your children or going to or near a particular location.
For those reasons alone, you should seek the expert assistance of one of our AVO and domestic violence lawyers.
If you believe the AVO was unnecessary, or obtained by a false complaint, or obtained for some advantage such as preventing one parent from seeing their children, the granting of an AVO can have drastic implications. What is to stop them alleging a breach of the AVO causing you to face criminal prosecution?
How easy is it for a person to simply ring the police and claim that you swore at them, intimidated them, harassed them or perhaps 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 necessity to attend Court.
It is therefore essential to seek expert advice as to what action should be taken in response to an Apprehended Violence Order application.