Are you a victim of domestic violence? Are you being stalked? Do you need protection from somebody who is threatening your right to feel safe?
Did you know that the Victorian Government has recently enacted two pieces of legislation that, when combined, provide a very broad protection for those who are victims of family violence, and/or stalking? This is given effect through the broadened definitions of those who are considered liable under the Acts, as well as the extensive powers given to police officers. The legislation seeks to provide protection for those in our society who feel their safety is at stake. More specifically, the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (FVPA) provides protection for those who are victims of ‘family violence’, and the Stalking Intervention Orders Act 2008 (SIOA) provides protection for those who are ‘stalked’. Both pieces of legislation give the Court discretion to put in place an intervention order, notwithstanding any other criminal or civil court actions that may be appropriate.
Did you know the scope of the FVPA has been broadened?
To make the legislation more accessible, the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator may fall within the ambit of the FVPA where the Court considers the respective relationship to be ‘reasonably like’ a family member. This means that after assessing factors such as the duration of the relationship, social and emotional ties as well as economic dependence, the Court concludes that the victim and the perpetrator have a familial relationship for purposes of the Act, notwithstanding that they are not married or blood relatives, nor have engaged in sexual relations.
It is also worth noting that the definition of ‘family violence’ has been broadened so as to encompass physical, psychological, emotional and economic abuse.
Did you know police can exercise wider powers under the FVPA and SIOA?
Police powers under the SIOA align with the powers noted under the FVPA, except the former also extends to controlled weapons. The Acts have basically extended the search and seizure powers of police so as to allow police to enter and search property and vehicles without a warrant as well as obtain a search warrant on the grounds of reasonable suspicion.
To further enhance protection of supposed victims, police have discretion to issue, what is called, a Family Violence Safety Notice. This notice may be issued outside of Court hours; the primary purpose being that police can intervene and protect those victims when the Court is unavailable.
Did you know the Court can put in place intervention orders?
Under both Part 2 of the SIOA and Part 4 of the FVPA, an intervention order can be sought so as to protect the victim from further harm. The paramount consideration when effecting an intervention order is the safety of the affected family member and any children involved. The Court has a rather wide discretion when effecting an intervention order, this includes restraining certain behaviours, as well as imposing particular conditions. Such conditions may involve prohibiting the perpetrator from committing that violence, excluding the perpetrator from the victim’s home, prohibiting the perpetrator from contacting the victim in any way other than what is supervised by police. The Court may also decide that it is necessary to limit the use of the perpetrator’s (and victim’s personal property). Final orders may be made for any number of victims of the domestic violence, provided the Court is satisfied on the evidence that such violence exists. The court will go to every extent to protect children, in which case, the victim’s consent is not needed in order for the final order to be made.
Overall it is clear that the new legislation has sought to provide fuller protection for those in our society who are susceptible to, or already victims of, family violence and stalking; giving civilians an avenue of complaint, authorities leeway to investigate, and the Courts, discretion to implement and enforce protection.