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Breach of a Domestic Violence Protection Order in the Australian Capital Territory
A breach of a Domestic Violence Protection Order in the ACT is a serious criminal offence. In the ACT, orders restraining a person (the defendant) from committing family and domestic violence are made under the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 (ACT).
These orders are referred to as Domestic Violence Protection Orders. They provide legal protection for different types of violence committed in family and domestic relationships. This includes protection against physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and property damage.
The types of relationships covered include spouses, de facto partners, and relatives. Details about how to apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order can be obtained from our dedicated article, Applying for a Protection Order in the Australian Capital Territory.
This article provides details on what happens if there is a breach of a Protection Order in the ACT.
What is a breach of a Domestic Violence Protection Order?
The purpose of the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 is to prevent domestic violence and to facilitate the safety of people in need of protection. Therefore, breaching a Protection Order in the ACT is a serious offence.
Not obeying the conditions of a Protection Order constitutes a breach. It may also be a breach for a defendant to contact a protected person through an electronic device.
A breach can occur within or outside of the ACT. A defendant who breaches a Protection Order may be arrested and charged by a police officer. They will then need to appear before a court and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Although applying for a Protection Order is a civil procedure, a breach of an order is a criminal offence. A breach of a Protection Order should be reported to the police as soon as possible.
To assist police, a protected person should gather evidence of the breach and keep notes documenting the date, time, and place where the breach occurred.
Are there any defences?
A defendant can only be convicted for contravening a Domestic Violence Protection Order in the ACT if they were present in court when the order was made or if they have been personally served with a copy of the order.
If you have been charged with breaching a Protection Order, you should speak to a lawyer. They can help you apply for bail and identify any possible defences you can raise, such as you were not aware of the existence of the order.
What are the penalties for breaching a Domestic Violence Protection Order?
Section 90 of the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 sets out the maximum penalties for a breach. The penalty for breaching a Domestic Violence Protection Order is a maximum fine of 500 penalty units ($90,000) and imprisonment for up to five years, or both.
As well as fines and imprisonment, there are other penalties that a court can impose for a breach of a Protection Order. These include home detention, community service, and good behaviour bonds.
If the defendant is convicted of a breach, then it will be recorded on their criminal record.
Can the conditions of a Domestic Violence Order be amended or revoked?
Domestic Violence Protection Orders generally remain in force for two years. The court can impose a shorter period and this will be stated in the order.
In exceptional circumstances, a court may make a Protection Order that lasts for longer than two years. During this time, it may be necessary to change or revoke the conditions of an order as it is no longer suitable. A defendant or protected person may ask a court to review the conditions of an ACT Protection Order.
For an ACT court to amend a Protection Order to reduce its protections, it has to be satisfied that when there is a child under 15, the child no longer needs greater protection than what would be provided by the original order.
A Protection Order may also be extended before it expires. An application for an extension must be made at least 21 days before the expiry of the order.
A court may revoke a Domestic Violence Protection Order if it is satisfied that the order is no longer necessary for the protection of a person. If the applicant applies for the order to be revoked, the court must also be satisfied that a child under 15 years will not be adversely affected if the protection in the original order is cancelled.
Alternatively, a court may dismiss an application to have an ACT Protection Order revoked or amended.