Myths and Realities of Apprehended Violence Orders

By John Vizzone

Myths and Realities About AVO’s

Apprehended Violence Orders

In recent days there has been much media coverage and discussion about Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO’s) and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVO’s).

The Daily Telegraph have published a number of articles outlining the spate of AVO’s in recent times and the amount of breaches.

In reply, the Sydney Morning Herald have published an informative comment by Don Weatherburn the director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in reply.

Whilst it is clear that we all need to stand up to domestic violence and work towards ridding society of it, the media has failed to highlight the truth and reality in respect of AVO’s.

An Apprehended Violence Order is an Order that can be sought by Police or an individual for the protection of a person in need of protection. An Apprehended Violence Order in itself is not a criminal charge.

Much criticism of the alleged inadequate nature of an AVO has centered around whether it is enough in cases where there are allegations of serious physical domestic violence. However, the AVO is invariably in addition to police criminal charges where such cases exist and the nature of the AVO is simply to restrain the person from committing further acts against the protected person.

When the AVO comes before the Court, the Court uses the balance of probabilities when assessing the merits of the AVO, a much lower standard than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. This means that to a large extent, AVO’s can be quite easy to get.

At our firm, we have acted on both sides of the fence. We have appeared for those seeking protection where the Police will not seek an AVO and we have appeared in the Defence of AVO’s.

The complaints that appear in AVO’s in my personal experience have ranged from the very serious to the almost trivial and bizarre. It is therefore not appropriate to analyse AVO statistics and judge whether the system is working when there are Apprehended Violence Order applications that cover a vast array of behaviour.

In many cases, AVO’s are used to gain the upper hand in family court matters (a common tactic), or used by the bullying party in a relationship to inflict further psychological pain on their victim by complaining first about matters. These type of AVO applications are often quickly dismissed by the Courts.

Obviously many cases do involve serious allegations and in our experience, the Courts’ are well equipped to hear and scrutinise the evidence in such matters before coming to its conclusion. Although domestic violence is rightly a “hot topic” it is important that we retain fundamental rights for each individual that are subjected to such allegations.

Believe it or not, not all people who come before the Court are guilty!

Society would be better off with a greater understanding of the AVO system and creating greater support and opportunity for genuine victims to come forward and get the justice they deserve. Those complaints which are not truthful or are vexatious will be dismissed by the Courts on the hearing of the evidence.

Finally, when an AVO is made there will often be a number of Orders which can range from restraining someone from stalking, intimidating and harassing a protected person, to an Order restraining a person from a particular location or from consuming alcohol in other places.

As such a breach of AVO can involve serious physical domestic violence which rightly should be punished by the Courts with jail time a possible outcome. However, breaches can involve a person merely walking past a premise, drinking a beer somewhere they shouldn’t, or some other minor breach.

It is for this reason that the number of breaches of AVO resulting in jail time are considerably less than other forms of sentencing options.

John Vizzone: Partner and Solicitor at Vizzone Ruggero Twigg Lawyers

John Vizzone: Partner and Solicitor at Vizzone Ruggero Twigg Lawyers

Vizzone Ruggero Twigg Lawyers Partner John Vizzone and Special Counsel Scott Richardson appear regularly in Apprehended Violence Order cases for both Defendants and Applicants. If you wish to discuss this article or your case with them please contact either our Sydney City office on 9264 7244, our Mascot office on 9667 1271 or email 

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