What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is behaviour by one person towards another person that is:
- physically or sexually abusive
- emotionally or psychologically abusive
- economically abusive
- threatening or coercive
- controlling or dominating and causing others to fear for their safety or wellbeing or that of someone else
The Law provides a non-exhaustive list of examples of behaviour that constitute domestic violence:
- causing personal injury to a person or threatening to do so
- coercing a person to engage in sexual activity or attempting to do so
- damaging a person’s property or threatening to do so
- depriving a person of the person’s liberty or threatening to do so
- threatening a person with death or injury of the person, a child of the person or someone else
- threatening to commit suicide or self-harm so as to torment, intimidate or frighten the person at whom the behaviour is directed
- causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the person at whom the behaviour is directed, so as to control, dominate or coerce the person
- following (surveillance) of a person without their consent
- unlawfully stalking a person.
What is Domestic Violence Order?
A domestic violence order is a protection order made by the court to stop threats or acts of domestic violence against a person.
This order can stop someone:
- approaching another person at their home or workplace
- staying in a home they used to share with the other person
- approaching another person, their relatives or their friends, if named in the order, within a certain distance, such as 100 metres
- going to a child’s school or day care centre.
Who can apply?
An application for a domestic violence order can be made by:
- the aggrieved
- a person who is authorised by the aggrieved in writing to apply for an order (e.g. a refuge worker)
- a police officer
- a person acting under another Act for the aggrieved (example of a guardian for a personal matter of the aggrieved)
Police as applicants
A police officer must investigate domestic violence if they reasonably suspect that domestic violence has been committed. If, after investigation, the police officer believes that domestic violence has been committed, they must consider whether it is necessary or desirable to take action to protect the person immediately (and in the longer term) from further domestic violence, and what is the most effective action to take. They may do any of the following:
- apply to the court for a domestic violence order to protect the aggrieved (s 100(2))
- apply to a court to vary a protection order
- issue a police protection notice
- take the respondent into custody
- apply to a magistrate for a temporary protection order
- take other action appropriate in the circumstances (e.g. taking the respondent to hospital for treatment).
Breach of a domestic violence order
Breaching the conditions of a domestic violence order is a criminal offence. Once reported, the police should investigate, and if it can be proved the order was broken, the respondent can be charged with breaching the domestic violence order. They could also be charged with other criminal offences depending on the circumstances.
If a respondent is convicted of contravening an order, they can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 120 penalty units (presently $130.55 per unit or $15 666).
If a respondent is convicted of contravening an order and has within five years prior to that been convicted of a domestic violence offence, they could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to 240 penalty units.