Protection Orders (Qld)
Protection orders in Queensland (also called Domestic Violence Orders) are court orders made when a person has experienced or fears domestic violence from another person. Protection Orders have conditions that restrict the behaviour of the respondent towards the protected person for the period they are in place. If the respondent breaches the conditions of the order they may be charged with a criminal offence.
Protection orders are made under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. The act aims to stop domestic violence from occurring, to protect victims of domestic violence, and to make sure that perpetrators are held to account.
‘Domestic violence’ is described in the legislation as behaviour that is:
- physically abusive
- sexually abusive
- emotionally abusive
- psychologically abusive
- economically abusive
- coercive, or
- seeks in any way to dominate or control and which makes the victim fear for their safety or wellbeing.
The parties must be in a ‘relevant relationship’.
What is a ‘relevant relationship’?
A ‘relevant relationship’ includes:
- Intimate personal relationships such as married and de facto couples and people who are dating;
- Informal care relationships
- Family relationships
Who can apply for protection orders?
To obtain a protection order, an application must be made in court by the person seeking protection (the ‘aggrieved’) with or without assistance from a lawyer, a police officer, a person authorised by the aggrieved to apply on their behalf, the aggrieved’s guardian or attorney under an enduring power of attorney or a party to a child protection proceeding (but only in the Children’s Court).
An order can be made to protect any child, relative or associate of the aggrieved who needs protection. The application must explain why other persons need protection.
An aggrieved who is aged under 18 can apply for an order against a person with whom they are in an intimate personal relationship or an informal care relationship but not against a family member.
Making protection orders in Queensland
Protection Orders in Queensland are usually made in the Magistrates Court. A Protection Order will be made if the court believes that violence has occurred and the order is necessary or desirable to protect the aggrieved from future violence.
The Supreme Court, District Court and Children’s Court can also make Protection Orders.
Police powers to make protection orders
When police believe family violence has occurred, they may issue the respondent with a Police Protection Notice.
When police attend a place where they suspect family violence has occurred, they can search the property and seize anything that might have been used to commit violence.
The offender can be taken into custody. If they are not taken into custody, the police can issue a Police Protection Notice. This is a short-term Domestic Violence Order that directs the respondent to be of good behaviour.
A Police Protection Notice remains in force until the matter is heard by a court.
The protection order application process
When an application for a Protection Order is filed, a date is set for the matter to be mentioned in court. The police will arrange for the application to be served on the respondent. At the first mention, a number of things may happen:
- The matter may be adjourned so the respondent can get legal advice;
- Parties may try to reach an agreement on suitable conditions for an order. If they succeed, final orders can be made;
- The application has been served but the respondent does not attend court, a final order may be made;
- The aggrieved can choose to withdraw the application on an undertaking by the respondent to be of good behaviour towards them. However, an undertaking can’t be enforced.
- The matter may be set down for a defended hearing on a later date.
Defended protection order hearings
If a respondent defends an application for a Protection Order, the matter will proceed to a contested hearing. At the hearing, the applicant must persuade the court that it is more likely than not that the aggrieved an order for their protection.
Both parties and any witnesses called by either party will give evidence under oath or affirmation.
The hearing will take place in a closed court which means that the public cannot attend except with leave of the court, and details that might identify the parties cannot be published.
The aggrieved must be treated as a ‘special witness’, meaning the court can order that the respondent and anyone else be excluded from the court while the aggrieved gives evidence, or that the aggrieved’s evidence be videotaped and played to the court.
A Protection Order usually remains in place for five years, but if there are special reasons, it can be made for a longer or shorter period. If either party is unhappy with the outcome of a contested hearing, it can appeal, but it must do so within a set time limit.
Conditions the court may impose with protection orders
The court can impose any conditions it believes are necessary to protect the aggrieved person and any other person who is at risk from the respondent.
All protection orders will include conditions ordering the respondent to be of good behaviour and not commit further family violence, and, where applicable, not to expose a child to domestic or family violence.
If an order is made against a respondent who has a weapons licence, this license is automatically revoked and they must surrender any weapons in their possession.
Other conditions that might be imposed include:
- that the respondent must not attempt to locate or approach the protected person/s;
- that the respondent must not contact, attempt to contact, or have someone else contact, the protected person/s;
- that the respondent must return property belonging to the protected person;
- conditions about contact with a child;
- conditions to protect the life of an unborn child.
Police can order a respondent to remain in a particular place until they have been served with a Protection Order application, a Police Protection Notice or a Protection Order.
Breach of Protection Orders in Queensland
Breaching the terms of a Protection Order in Queensland is a criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 3 years or a fine of 120 penalty units. If the person has been found guilty of breaching an order in the previous 5 years, then the penalty increases.
It is a defence to breaching an order if the person has not been advised of the existence of the order.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal.