Family and domestic violence means any form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse, either by force or threats, which takes place within an ‘emotional’ relationship. Emotional relationship includes people who are married, de facto, or otherwise connected, ex-partners and any family/blood relatives.
The most common method of protecting people from experiencing family and domestic violence is through restraining orders.
6.1 ‘On-the-spot’ restraining orders
Police have the power to make ‘on-the-spot’ restraining orders for between 24 and 72 hours, where the police are satisfied that a situation is urgent and that a person needs to be immediately protected from a potential family and domestic violence situation.
6.2 Restraining orders under WA legislation
The Magistrate Court has the power to make longer-lasting restraining orders under the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA), in order to prevent likely acts of violence and/or intimidation and threats at some point in the future. There are two types of restraining orders that can be made:
- Violence Restraining Order (VRO); or
- Misconduct Restraining Order (MRO).
Restraining order applications can be made by the person seeking to be protected or an authorised person who can legally act on behalf of the person (such as a parent of a child).
These applications are usually made in person at the nearest Magistrates Court; but can also be made urgently over the phone by a police officer on behalf of the person requiring protection.
Restraining orders last for varying times, but are usually effective for 1-2 years. To be effective, the restraining order must be served on the person against whom the order is being made – i.e. they must be made aware of the restraining order. When effective, restraining orders can prohibit a person from:
- being on or near premises where the applicant lives or works;
- being on or near named premises or places;
- coming within a certain distance of the applicant; and
- communicating or attempting to communicate with the applicant;
It is a criminal offence for a person to disobey a restraining order.
6.3 Violence Restraining Orders
An applicant would seek a VRO where they believed that unless such an order was made, the person against whom it is made would likely commit an act of violence against them or behave in a way that creates a reasonable fear of violence.
Grounds for a VRO can include:
- assault, personal injury, deprivation of liberty;
- property damage;
- ongoing intimidating, offensive or emotionally abusive behaviour;
- threats of violence or property damage; or
6.4 Criminal law system
Offenders of family and domestic violence can also be prosecuted under criminal law in addition to having a restraining order taken out against them. Police should be contacted if you think a criminal prosecution is required. The Department of the Attorney General (‘Victim Support and Child Witness Service’ – Freecall: 1800 818 988) also provides services for victims of crime.
6.5 Who to contact
The Legal Aid WA Domestic Violence Legal Unit (DVLU) is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday if you have queries about safety or restraining orders. To access this service, or for information and referral in relation to family law issues such as parenting orders, please call the Legal Aid WA Infoline on 1300 650 579 from 9.00am to 4.00pm between Monday and Friday.
In an emergency and if you fear for the safety of yourself or your children, telephone 000 and ask for the police. If, at any time, you need urgent advice or information, telephone the 24 hour Legal Aid WA Crisis Care Unit on (08) 9325 1111 or 1800 199 008.
Men can access the 24 hour Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline for advice on (08) 9223 1199 or 1800 000 599.