An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is a court order that aims to protect a person by restricting or prohibiting another person’s behaviour. An AVO can be made based on a person’s fear of unwanted conduct from another person towards them in the future — including physical violence, intimidation, stalking, harassment, property damage or threats.
AVOs are sometimes called ‘restraining orders’ because an AVO ‘restrains’ (stops) a person (the defendant) from doing something towards the fearful person (‘the protected person’). For example, an AVO can prohibit a defendant from doing something, such as assaulting, intimidating, harassing or threatening the protected person or going to places where the protected person lives or works. An AVO cannot order a defendant to complete an anger management course, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
The law relating to AVOs in NSW is set out in the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW).
History of AVOs
In 1982, the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) was amended by the Crimes (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act 1982 (NSW) to introduce apprehended domestic violence orders in NSW. AVOs could be made for the protection of a person living in a marriage or those living together ‘as husband and wife on a bona fide domestic basis’. In 1983, the protection was extended to cover those who had previously been married or living in a de facto relationship in recognition of the fact that violence frequently occurs after separation. In 1989, amendments extended the cover of persons eligible for protection under an ADVO to include a broad range of domestic relationships.
In 2007, the law about AVOs was removed from the Crimes Act 1900 into a stand-alone Act, the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). There have been further changes to that Act since then.
Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007
The principal legislation relating to domestic violence offences in NSW is the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. The objects of the Act state that Parliament recognises that: ‘Domestic violence extends beyond physical violence and may involve the exploitation of power imbalances and patterns of abuse over many years’.
Section 11 of the Act defines a ‘domestic violence offence’ as a personal violence offence committed by a person against another person with whom the person who commits the offence has or has had a domestic relationship.
A personal violence offence is defined in section 4 of the Act as being an act of intimidation or stalking within the meaning of section 13, a breach of an AVO within the meaning of section 14, or any of the criminal offences under the Crimes Act 1900 listed in section 4 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, or an attempt to commit an offence listed in section 4.
Different types of AVOs
There are two types of AVOs, and the difference is based on the nature of relationship between the protected person and the defendant:
- Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs)
- Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs).
Note: As this publication is about domestic violence, most references are to ADVOs, but the general term AVO will be used for simplicity.
Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs)
An ADVO is made when the protected person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the defendant. ‘Domestic relationship’ is broadly defined to include marriage and de facto partnerships; intimate personal relationships; people living in the same household; long term residents in the same residential facility; carers; relatives; extended family or kin in the case of Aboriginal Australians; and people who have both had a domestic relationship with the same person (for example, a victim’s new partner and ex-partner will be deemed to have a domestic relationship even if they have never met because they have both been in a relationship with the same victim). It does not matter whether the relationship is past or current.
Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs)
An APVO is made when the protected person and defendant are not in a domestic relationship with each other — for example, neighbours, people who work together, or strangers.
The Domestic Violence Hot Topic is intended as an introductory guide only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.