An apprehended violence order (AVO), also commonly referred to as a "restraining order", is an order made by the court to protect a person from someone they fear will stalk, intimidate, threaten or harass them.

An AVO is not a criminal matter, rather, it is a civil order that has criminal consequences if breached. It is important that you get legal advice when dealing with an AVO, because it can have far-reaching consequences, such as affecting working with children checks and the ability to maintain a firearms licence or a security licence.

There are two ways that a person can get an AVO: a police AVO and a personal AVO.

What is a police AVO?

When there is domestic violence (violence in an intimate relationship) involved, the police will usually take out an apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO) to protect the victim. The police will represent the protected person in these proceedings.

What is a personal AVO?

A personal AVO, known as an apprehended personal violence order (APVO), is where there is personal violence between people who are not in an intimate relationship, such as colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances.

Court process following an application for an AVO

Once an AVO has been applied for, the AVO will be served on the defendant.

Both parties are required to come to court for the first mention date. On this day the court will want to know whether the application is still proceeding, how the defendant wishes to respond to the application and whether the matter can be finalised there and then.

Options for a defendant at the first mention are:

  • Adjourn the matter for a week or two to seek legal advice
  • Consent to the AVO being made without admissions, meaning you do not agree to the allegations in the AVO but will comply with the orders sought
  • For a personal AVO you may be able to give an undertaking (promise) to the court to refrain from any behavior that would cause the protected person fear
  • Dispute the AVO

Disputing a police AVO

If you dispute a police AVO, the court will make orders for statements to be filed and served and for the matter to come back before the court to confirm that this has been done. If statements have been filed and served, the matter will be set down for a hearing.

Disputing a personal AVO

If you dispute a personal AVO, the parties will be sent to compulsory mediation at a Community Justice Centre, unless there are exceptions. The exceptions relate to situations where there has been physical or personal violence, discrimination, harassment or a previous failed attempt at mediation.

Once mediation has taken place, you will return to court and confirm whether the AVO is still necessary. If is it and cannot be resolved by way of an undertaking, then the court will make orders for the filing and service of statements. Once that is completed, the court will set the matter down for hearing.

Even when an AVO is finalised in court, you can apply to the court to have it varied or revoked.

Should you wish to speak to one of our experienced lawyers about how to apply for or defend an AVO, be sure to give us a call to arrange a no obligation face-to-face conference.

Caitlin Drabble
Criminal law
Stacks Heard McEwan

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.