What are Safe Contact or Limited Family Violence Intervention Orders?
Updated: Oct 20
The term "safe contact" or "limited order" may arise during negotiations with the prosecution or the Court, often in the context of "consent without admission" Family Violence Intervention Orders. In this article we discuss what are limited or safe contact Intervention Orders.
Table of Contents
What Conditions are Available to the Court when Imposing an Intervention Order?
Section 80 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) provides that "In deciding the conditions to be included in a family violence intervention order, the court must give paramount consideration to the safety of:
(a) the affected family member for the application for the family violence intervention order; and
(b) any children who have been subjected to the family violence to which the application relates.
The Court acting pursuant to sections 80 and 81 of the Act has broad discretion to impose conditions to an Intervention Order "that appear to the court necessary or desirable in the circumstances".
Under Section 81 of the Act, the conditions a Court may consider including on a Family Violence Intervention Order any of the following conditions:
(a) prohibiting the respondent from committing family violence against the protected person; and
(b) excluding the respondent from the protected person's residence in accordance with section 82 or 83; and
(c) relating to the use of personal property in accordance with section 86; and
(d) prohibiting the respondent from approaching, telephoning or otherwise contacting the protected person, unless in the company of a police officer or a specified person; and
e) prohibiting the respondent from being anywhere within a specified distance of the protected person or a specified place, including the place where the protected person lives; and
(f) prohibiting the respondent from causing another person to engage in conduct prohibited by the order; and
(g) revoking or suspending a weapons approval held by the respondent or a weapons exemption applying to the respondent as provided by section 95; and
(h) cancelling or suspending the respondent's firearms authority as provided by section 95.
Definition of 'Family Violence'
Under Section 5 of the Act, 'family violence is defined as:
(1) For the purposes of this Act, family violence is:
(a) behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behaviour:
(i) is physically or sexually abusive; or
(ii) is emotionally or psychologically abusive; or
(iii) is economically abusive; or
(iv) is threatening; or
(v) is coercive; or
(vi) in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person; or
(b) behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of, behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), "family violence" includes the following behaviour:
(a) assaulting or causing personal injury to a family member or threatening to do so;
(b) sexually assaulting a family member or engaging in another form of sexually coercive behaviour or threatening to engage in such behaviour;
(c) intentionally damaging a family member's property, or threatening to do so;
(d) unlawfully depriving a family member of the family member's liberty, or threatening to do so;
(e) causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member.
(3) To remove doubt, it is declared that behaviour may constitute family violence even if the behaviour would not constitute a criminal offence.
Limited or Safe Contact Intervention Order
Although a Court on hearing an application for a Family Violence Intervention Order may include all of the conditions outlined above, in appropriate cases it may only include 2 or 3.
Typically where the Court does not assess the risk of family violence as being high, and usually where the police are supportive, a Court may simply order that a Respondent:
Not commit family violence
Not damage property
Not cause anyone else to commit family violence or damage property (agency condition)
The consequences for breaching a limited/safe contact order remain the same as for any other breach. Namely, a maximum penalty of 2 years or 240 penalty units or both (section 123 of the Act).
Call our office for advice if responding to a police application for a Family Violence Intervention Order.
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