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The Law and You: Domestic Violence

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Domestic and other violence is on the rise.

It comes in many forms, is often unexpected and is never pleasant or easy to deal with. Once exposed to such violence—whether from someone you know or don’t know—the challenge is to protect yourself.

One form of protection is to get an Order from the ACT Magistrates Court to stop someone from acting in a certain way towards you. These questions and answers shed some light on Domestic Violence Orders (DVO) and Personal Protection Orders (PPO).

What are the grounds for a DVO?

Domestic violence includes threats or acts of sexual assault, physical or personal injury, property damage, harassing or offensive behaviour, stalking, indecent acts and/or trespass, and even violence directed towards a pet. These are all grounds for a DVO.

What is a DVO?

The ACT Magistrates Court can issue a DVO to protect you from a relative, someone you live with, or used to live with, or someone you are or were in a relationship with. This could include a marriage or domestic relationship. The DVO protects you (‘the applicant’) from being harmed by another person (‘the respondent’). The Court orders the respondent to not behave in a certain way towards you or come into contact with you.

Can my children be covered by a DVO?

They can if they’re at risk of being exposed to domestic violence against the applicant.

What is a PPO?

The ACT Magistrates Court can issue a PPO to protect you from someone you’re not related to or don’t live with. This could include a neighbour, acquaintance, colleague or stranger. As with a DVO, a PPO protects you from the respondent.

What are the grounds for a PPO?

The ACT Magistrates Court can issue a PPO on the grounds of physical or personal injury, property damage, harassing or offensive behaviour, stalking, indecent acts, trespass and even violence directed towards a pet.

What process is involved in getting a DVO or PPO?

ACT law is designed to be simple, quick and inexpensive. You get an application form from the Magistrates Court or its website. You complete a DVO or PPO form by detailing the threats made by or behaviour of the respondent. You also set out the type of Order you’re seeking—what you would like the Court to order the respondent from doing. The Court then considers your application.

How fast does the Court act?

This depends on whether your application is urgent. Depending on the level of urgency, the Court can make interim (urgent) or final orders.

What is an interim order?

Interim orders are made on an urgent basis. They’re based solely on the evidence provided in your application.

If the Court makes an interim order, it will start as soon as the respondent is served with it. Then both you and the respondent will be asked to go to Court within 15 and 21 days. The respondent must advise the court 7 days before going to Court whether they object to the Order being made. If they do not object, the interim order becomes a final order.

If the Court does not make an interim order, they will ask you and the respondent to go to Court even more quickly, within 2 and 10 days.

What happens when we go to Court?

At Court, a Registrar will hold a ‘return conference’. The Registrar will meet with you and the respondent to see if there are ways to ensure your safety without a final order being made. For example, if the respondent will undertake (or promise) to do certain things or if you can both agree on orders by consent.

What is a final order?

If no agreement is reached then the matter goes to the Magistrate. The Magistrate hears your evidence and the respondent’s evidence and decides whether to make a final order.

How long do interim orders last?

Until you and the respondent go to Court.

How long do final orders last?

A final order lasts for 2 years with a DVO and 1 year with a PPO.

Does the respondent get a criminal record when they’re issued with a DVO or PPO?

No, but if the respondent does not follow what the Court says they will be breaching their Order and this is a criminal offence.

What Act covers DVOs and PPOs?

In the capital it is the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 (ACT).

Tip

The Court tries to deal with matters of personal safety quickly. Legal Aid ACT has a Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Order Unit located at the Court to assist you with your application. You should never continue to put up with domestic or personal violence, or wait too long to get legal or other kinds of assistance.

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Feature image of fearful battered woman peeking through the blinds courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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