Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) in NSW

Article Katrina Beltran 18 May 2023

Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) are an important legal tool used in New South Wales to protect people from violence and intimidation. They are a type of restraining order implemented by the Court that prohibits a person from contacting or further harassing, intimidating or inflicting violence towards the person or the people they live with whom the AVO protects . AVOs can be used in both criminal law and family law cases.  The aim of an AVO is to protect the victim from the perpetrator by placing prohibitive conditions on the perpetrators actions and behaviours.

Police are often called to deal with situations in which they ultimately decide that an AVO would be an appropriate means to protect someone. Police have the power to make AVO applications to the Court on a person’s behalf, even when a person does not wish for an AVO to be made. Sometimes an AVO can be accompanied with a criminal charge if the behaviour is serious enough to warrant one.

AVOs can also be applied for privately. The person who is seeking protection must provide evidence to support their claim. This evidence can include police reports, medical records, and witness statements. Private AVOs are usually not accompanied by a criminal charge. Defendants are given the opportunity to make statements which explain their case, or can accept the AVO if they agree with it.  In both scenarios, a Court will then consider the evidence of both the person making the AVO and the person defending themselves and decide whether to grant the AVO.

If an AVO is granted, the person who is the subject of the order may be prohibited from doing certain things, such as contacting the person who needs protection, going near their home or workplace, or being in possession of firearms. Not abiding by the rules of the AVO, or ‘breaching’ an AVO, is a criminal offence and can result in penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

AVOs in Family Law  

Unfortunately, in some family law cases, there can be a history of abuse or violence in the relationship, or a risk of violence or intimidation by one of the parties against the other.  A domestic violence AVO is used in situations where the person in need of protection is in, or was in, a domestic relationship with the defendant, such as a spouse or partner.  They can also be applied for on behalf of a child who is at risk of harm.

AVOs in Criminal Law

Personal violence AVOs are used in situations where there is no domestic relationship between the parties involved and they are often applied for in cases of violence, intimidation, or stalking.

It is important to note that AVOs in and of themselves are not criminal charges. AVOs are a civil order, while criminal charges involve a breach of criminal laws and result in criminal proceedings. However, breaching an AVO is a criminal offence, and can result in criminal charges being laid against the defendant. If the defendant is found to have breached an AVO, they can face penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

How do you apply for an AVO?

Applying for an AVO can be a complex legal process and takes time. The police can make an application on your behalf, or you can make the application privately.  If you make an application privately, we recommend seeking legal advice to ensure that your application is handled correctly, and to avoid the risk of it being dismissed and costs for the defendant being awarded against you. 

At CDQ we can guide you through the application, to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible, however, it is also important to note that if you are in immediate danger you should call 000 in the first instance.

The process of obtaining an AVO is generally:

  1. Making an application for either a domestic violence AVO or personal violence AVO depending upon the situation.  This can be done privately with the assistance of a legal representative/lawyer, or through the NSW Police.
  2. The application is ‘served’ (given to the person the applicant is seeking protection from) and then filed with the Court.
  3. Court hearing is scheduled for a date/time when the Court will hear the evidence supporting the application, and a timetable for serving evidence (such as defendant’s evidence, police reports, medical records and witness statements) is also made.
  4. The Court then decides whether to grant the AVO and, if granted, the relevant terms and conditions of the order.

Defending an AVO

A person who has been served with an AVO may defend the AVO via a Court hearing by providing evidence which can assist the Court in deciding to not make Orders. A court may not make an AVO if it deems that the person in need of protection does not actually fear the Defendant, or fear further violence against them.

Further, an AVO can be dismissed in Court if a party does not comply with procedural orders to file and serve their evidence on time, or through negotiations between the parties.

If you have been served with an AVO, CDQ can help you navigate the court process and defend against the AVO if required.

To find out more about applying for an AVO, or if you have been served with an AVO, contact Katrina Beltran at CDQ Solicitors on ph 02  8566 2400 for a confidential discussion and advice.