What is an AVO?

avo domestic violence behind closed doors

An AVO application is one of the most common matters to come before a Magistrate in the Local Court.

If you need legal assistance with an AVO matter please click here.

What does AVO stand for?

AVO stands for Apprehended Violence Order. This is an order made by a Court restricting the defendant from certain actions such as contacting the victim or being within a certain distance from their home or work. The purpose of an AVO is to protect the complainant (sometimes called the Person In Need Of Protection or the PINOP) from harassment, threats, stalking, intimidation or violence.

There are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders:

  • Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) – Domestic AVO’s are made when the people involved are related or in a domestic relationship such as a family member or a current or former spouse or partner
  • Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) – Private AVO’s are made when the people involved are not related or in a domestic relationship such as work colleagues or neighbours.

Is an AVO a criminal conviction?

An AVO is not a criminal conviction. An AVO made against you will not appear on your criminal record however it can still have an impact on your future and your employment prospects.

  • If you are planning a career working involving contact with children, an employer must do a “working with children” check. This check will show any final AVO, which has been made against you for the protection of a child.
  • You cannot have a firearms licence for the duration of the AVO and ten years after the AVO has expired. As a result, your employment prospects within the security industry or Police Force may be affected or your ability to work on a farm may be limited.

Can an AVO be withdrawn?

The answer is yes, but it rarely occurs.

It is not uncommon for the victim and the perpetrator named in the AVO to have reached some form of reconciliation by the time the matter comes before the Court.

It is frequently thought that the persons named on the AVO can simply tell the Court that they no longer wish to have an AVO in place. This is a common mistake often made by both parties involved in the AVO process.

In the vast majority of AVO matters before the Court, the applicant in the proceedings is the NSW Police Force and the Police are ultimately responsible for determining how the final AVO application will proceed before the Court.

From experience, the NSW Police Force will not withdraw an Apprehended Violence Order because the alleged victim no longer wants an AVO in place or for submissions that imposing an AVO will result in an adverse outcome for the family.

Can I dispute an AVO application?

The defendant is always entitled to dispute any Police or private AVO application. If no additional charges are pending under the Crimes Act, this matter may be readily defended in the Local Court.

For an AVO to be made, the Court must be sure that the (Person In Need Of Protection or the PINOP) has reasonable grounds to fear that the defendant will intimidate, stalk or commit an act of violence against the person seeking protection.

The Police or private applicant must satisfy the Court on the balance of probabilities that they have reasonable and genuine fear for their safety and that there are reasonable grounds for taking out an AVO.

Some applications for Apprehended Violence Orders are dismissed. This occurs predominantly because the Police or private applicant have been unable to show the court that the (Person In Need Of Protection or the PINOP) has reasonable grounds to fear that the defendant will intimidate, stalk or commit an act of violence against the person seeking protection.

The Police have to make quick decisions when responding to domestic violence matters and often need to make judgement calls on the limited evidence available at the time. Sometimes the Police do not have an opportunity to take witness statements and crucial evidence can be missed.

Fortunately, it is the Court’s responsibility to ensure that Final AVO’s are only issued if a person is genuinely in need of protection.

Fourtree Lawyers will be able to advise you on your chances of successfully defending an AVO.

What happens if an AVO is breached?

Having an AVO against you will not result in a criminal record, however, breaching an AVO is a serious criminal offence and other offences are quite often committed while breaching the order such as property damage or assault.

It is important to be aware that even in a situation where the protected person wants or invites the accused to do something which would cause them to breach the Order, the defendant can still be convicted of breaching a condition of the AVO.

If it is claimed that you have breached any conditions of an AVO, you may be charged with a criminal offence. If the breach is alleged to have involved violence or you have a previous history of violence, it may be difficult for you the get bail.

If you are convicted of breaching the AVO, you will have a criminal record. If you are convicted of a breach of the Order, which involves violence, then you may receive a jail sentence.

What can I do if I have breached an AVO?

If you have breached an AVO, there are two options available.

  • Plead not guiltyTo be convicted of this offence, the Applicant or the Police representing the PINOP must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Defendant has breached a prohibition or restriction specified in the terms of an AVO made against the Defendant, and that the contravention was done or made knowingly. If this cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt, then the Defendant will be found not guilty of the offence.
  • Plead guiltyIf the Defendant to the breach of AVO agrees with the Police allegations made against him or her, it is in their interest to plead guilty. Pleading guilty shows remorse and contrition in the court and may entitle them to a discount on their sentence.

In the event of an AVO breach, there can be serious penalties including fines and imprisonment. For non-violent breaches of an AVO, a Section 10 bond or dismissal is sometimes granted, but these are not common.

Will I need a lawyer?

If you agree with an AVO or don’t care if an order is made against you, then you may decide against having a lawyer appear for you. However, if you are nervous about going to court a lawyer’s guidance can take the fear out of the court appearance for you.

If you wish to fight an AVO, or you have breached an AVO, we recommend that you engage a lawyer who is highly skilled in criminal law matters and has extensive experience running domestic violence hearings in the Local Court.

If the Police or another person has threatened to take out an AVO against you, or you need the protection of an AVO for your personal safety, Fourtree Lawyers will be able to assist in all aspects of the AVO process. Contact us today to set up a consultation on 1300 529 444.

For more information about AVO matters please click here.