Intervention Orders – Personal Safety

An application for an Intervention Order in the Magistrates Court can be made under the Personal  Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010, where there is no family relationship. This new Act replaces the intervention order system in Victoria that was previously administered under the Stalking Intervention Orders Act 2008. Under that old Act, the applicant for a Stalking Intervention Order had to satisfy the court that they were a victim of stalking, which by its very definition – see below – requires a series of prohibited acts or “course of conduct”. However, under the new Act, the court needs only be satisfied that an applicant’s personal safety is at risk, for example if they have been subjected to violence, threat(s) – possibly from a single prohibited act – or stalking (which remains grounds for applying for such an Order).

Stalking is a criminal offence in each Australian  State and Territory.  Anti-stalking legislation was passed in Victoria in 1995 (see Section 21A of the Crimes Act 1958). The Victorian law states that a person is guilty of stalking if he or she engages in a series of prohibited acts with the intention of causing physical or mental harm to victim, or causing fear or apprehension for the victim’s safety, or for the safety of their loved ones.

According to Section 21A of the Crimes Act, a person (the respondent) stalks another person (the affected person) if the respondent engages in a course of conduct with the intention of causing physical or mental harm to the affected person or arousing apprehension or fear in the affected person for their own safety.

Some of the behaviour that can cause physical or mental harm to a person or that can cause apprehension or fear in a person includes: following the affected person; contacting the affected person by post, telephone, fax, text message, email or other electronic communication or means; publishing on the internet or by an email or other electronic communication a statement relating to the affected person or purporting to relate to or originate from the affected person; causing an unauthorised computer function in a computer owned by or used by the affected person; tracing the affected person’s use of the internet or email or other electronic communication; entering or loitering outside or near the affected person’s place of residence or place of business or any other place frequented by the affected person; interfering with property in the affected person’s possession; giving offensive material to the affected person or any other person or leaving it where it will be found by, given to or brought to the attention of the affected person; keeping the affected person under surveillance; or acting in any other way that could reasonably be expected to arouse apprehension or fear in the affected person for their safety.

A recent change in the law that extends the definition of stalking is the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Act 2011, covering conduct as from 8 June 2011. Bullying has traditionally been dealt with under occupational health and safety law, but the new law provides that severe cases of bullying can be treated as a crime. Broadly, bullying is considered to have occurred if there has been a course of conduct that includes threatening someone, using abusive or offensive words within the hearing of a person, directing abusive or offensive acts towards a person or acting in such a way that could reasonably be expected to make a person apprehensive or fear for their own safety or that of someone else. An important requirement, however, is that the alleged offender must have intended to have caused physical or mental harm or cause the fear, whether directly, or he or she ought to have known that this would be likely, or the behaviour could reasonably be expected to cause the harm (including self harm).

The law recognises the need to ensure citizens’ safety and peace of mind and has set up the above mechanisms accordingly.

If the person accused of family violence or violating the aplicant’s personal safety (the “respondent”) disputes such accusations and fails to speak up, an Intervention Order may be made against them. An Intervention Order lasts for specified periods (often twelve months). The penalties for breaching such Orders can be severe.

An application for an intervention order may be made to the Court by a member of the police force, the affected family member (or affected person), if they are an adult, or any other person with the written consent of the affected family member/affected person. If the affected family member/affected person is a child – a parent of the child, or any other person with the written consent of a parent of the child. In certain circumstances the Court may give permission for a child above the age of 14 years to issue an application for an intervention Order. If the affected family member has a guardian – the guardian or any other person with permission from the Court may issue the application.

An application for an Intervention Order can be made at any Magistrates’ Court location in Victoria. This includes the Neighbourhood Justice Centre.

We can help by assisting clients (affected family members/persons) who have applied for an Intervention Order. Similarly, we can assist clients who find themselves the target of a potential Intervention Order (respondents) reach the best result.

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Edmund Saw

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