An Introduction to Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs)

An Introduction to Apprehended Violence Orders

What is an AVO?

An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an order that a court makes against a person who makes you fear for your safety, for example, a current or former partner. AVOs are governed by the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) (“the Act”).

An AVO will protect you from continuing or future threats of violence, such as:

  • Physical assault
  • Non-physical threats, harassment, or intimidation
  • Damage to property or threats to damage property

There are two types of AVOs:

  1. Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO). This is an order made by the court to protect a person in a domestic relationship with someone else (e.g. a partner or spouse)
  2. Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO). This is an order made by the court to protect a person in a non-domestic relationship with someone else (e.g. a neighbour or colleague at work)

ADVOs and APVOs are the same in their effect, as they are essentially intervention orders which separate you and/or a loved one from further abuse. The main difference between these two intervention orders is the way in which they are brought to the courts. In the case of applying for an ADVO, for example, the police are obligated to apply for an order on behalf of the victim in cases of domestic violence.

It is important to note that AVOs can be extended by the court to give protection to more than one person at a time, particularly when that person is also at risk of violence or threats from the defendant. AVOs will help preserve your right to be protected from violence in domestic relationships, and supports international law principles, such as those enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

How can I apply for an AVO?

If the police do not apply for an AVO, you can apply for an AVO privately if you meet both of the following criteria:

  • You are 16 years of age or older, and
  • You have been subject to assault (sexual or otherwise physical), threats of physical harm, stalking, harassment or intimidation, and
  • You believe that this behaviour will continue.

The court will make an AVO if it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person seeking the order has reasonable grounds to fear, and that the person does fear that:

  • The defendant will commit a domestic violence offence: s 16(1) of the Act; or
  • The defendant will intimidate them: s 16(1)(b)(i); or
  • The defendant will stalk them: s 16(1)(b)(ii).

The Court uses its discretion when considering such matters. In the case of Bartlett & Denny [2021] FedCFamC2F 442, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia noted that the mother of two children had successfully applied to the Local Court for an AVO against the father on the grounds that she was constantly being requested by the father that the children spend time with him. The mother noted that she continued to fear for her own safety, as well as the safety of her parents and children, if the father were to have an argument and subsequently become angry.

What type of restrictions apply under an AVO?

According to s 36 of the Act, there are three ‘mandatory orders’ or prohibitions which must be specified in every AVO:

  1. The defendant is prohibited from assaulted or threatening the protected person: s 36(a) of the Act;
  2. The defendant is prohibited from stalking, harassing or intimidating the protected person: s 36(b);
  3. The defendant is prohibited from intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging any property that belongs to, or is in possession of, the protected person: s 36(c).

Any additional terms of the AVO will differ in each case. These are several notable examples of restrictions which can apply to the defendant:

  1. Being prohibited from coming to the victim’s home or workplace.
  2. Being prohibited from contacting the victim by calling, texting, email or other methods,
  3. Being prohibited from asking someone to contact the victim on the defendant’s behalf,
  4. Being prohibited from following or otherwise stalking the defendant.

An AVO has a default duration of two years if the defendant is 18 years of age or older, according to s 79A of the Act.

If the defendant is younger than 18 years of age at the time the AVO is enforced, then the default period is one year.

Under an AVO, the defendant may also be required to do certain activities, such as participating in an intervention program (e.g. mental health programs or counselling), during the duration of the AVO.

The Court may sometimes allow you to apply to vary (to extend or reduce) the duration of an AVO against the defendant if they are 18 or older, according to s 73(2)(a) of the Act. This can be done at the local court. In the case of Zaccardi & Zaccardi [2020] FamCA 964, the Family Court of Australia referred to the fact that the wife’s application at the Local Court to extend an ADVO against her husband succeeded. The Local Court was presented with evidence in relation to threats of violence from the husband against the wife, and the ADVO was subsequently extended for a further two years.

What happens if an AVO is breached?

Breaching an AVO is a serious offence. Those who breach an AVO may be arrested and brought to court, where they may be fined up to $5,500 or imprisoned for up to two years.

It is advised that a copy of the AVO should be kept at all times in case you are approached by the defendant. You must also contact the police if you find any breaches of the AVO committed by the defendant.

Pannu Lawyers extensively practice in Criminal Law and regularly appears at Courts throughout New South Wales. Our team is ready to assist you with your AVO matter. If your ADVO matter is at Blacktown Local Court, we are conveniently located within a walking distance from the Blacktown Local Court. Call our office on 02 9920 1787 to discuss your matter in a confidential manner.

Related Posts

Best Lawyer in australia