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Redefining Family Violence Orders

Feb 23, 2017

Carr & Co

In 2012, there were almost 45,000 incidents of family violence in Western Australia reported to the police. This was a staggering two and a half times more incidents than those reported in 2004. These figures ostensibly set about a chain of events which have led to the introduction of a new type of restraining order – the Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”).

In July 2013, the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia was given the task of reviewing our laws in relation to family violence. In particular, the Commission was to review the operation of the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA), and to consider whether there would be benefits in having separate legislation governing family violence restraining orders. In its report, the Commission notes that the alarming number of reported incidents of family violence is unlikely to be a true reflection of the actual incidence of family violence given the obstacles which confront, and the great courage required for, a victim to take steps to recognize, make and persist with a complaint of such violence.

The review gave rise to the Restraining Orders and Related Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2016 (WA), which was passed by State Parliament on 17 November 2016. The legislation introduced a third and distinct category of restraining order, the Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”). Whilst the existing orders already provided for under the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA), specifically, the Violence Restraining Order (“VRO”) and the Misconduct Restraining Order (“MRO”), will continue to operate, the FVRO will operate exclusively in cases involving family members.

The FVRO differs from the VRO and MRO in that the victim will no longer necessarily be required to produce evidence of a specific act of abuse. It does this by the introduction of a new definition of ‘family violence’, which now includes not only physical injury, but will extend to certain behaviours which ‘coerce, control or cause fear’. These behaviours will include assault, damaging or destroying property, causing a child to be exposed to family violence, killing or injuring the family pet, stalking, or withholding financial support from the victim.

In determining a FVRO, the Court will be required to have regard for any ‘risk relevant’ information, such as information from the WA Police, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support and other agencies. The terms of the FVRO will be tailored to each specific case, giving the Court the ability to place certain conditions on the person restrained, such as mandatory counselling, or to extend the period of the order beyond the default two-year period where appropriate.

It is anticipated that the first FVROs will be issued in mid-2017. For more specific advice on family violence or the new regime of restraining orders, contact one of the lawyers at Carr & Co on 9322 8000 or via email at contactus@carrco.com.au.