The imposition of a domestic violence order (DVO) against perpetrators of family violence is an important tool available to police and the Court to combat the presence of a growing social problem.
There has been a strong focus in the media in recent years and the Northern Territory Government have recently appointed the first Minister for the Prevention of Domestic, Family & Sexual Violence. It has been reported that NT Police deal with more than 5,000 cases of domestic violence each year.
What is less widely known in the community though, are the consequences of being a respondent/defendant of a DVO.
If an application for a DVO is served on you, it is important that you don’t ignore the process. A DVO can still be made by the Court in the absence of the defendant. It is also available to the Court to make an interim DVO at any stage of the proceedings if they consider it to be warranted in the circumstances.
However simply because an application has been filed with the Court does not automatically mean that a DVO will be made. Section 18 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) provides that a DVO may only be made if the Court ‘is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for the protected person to fear the commission of domestic violence against the person by the defendant.’ The term reasonable in this instance implies that it is not a high threshold for the protected person to prove, however they are still required to present evidence of this fear. The defendant is also provided the opportunity to present their version of events and tender evidence to support their argument.
Proceedings for a DVO are a civil matter, not a criminal one. Therefore, a DVO does not show on a criminal history report. Many employers now require their prospective employees to submit a national police report or criminal history check and the existence of a DVO will not be known, unless a condition of the DVO has been breached that has resulted in criminal charges being brought against the defendant and has resulted in a conviction.
If an interim DVO is made by the Court, any firearms licence held by the defendant will be automatically suspended. The defendant is then required to surrender their licence and firearms to the Police and this condition will remain for as long as the interim DVO is in place.
If the matter progresses to a final DVO being made, the defendant’s firearms licence is revoked and they cannot apply for another licence until five years have passed since the final DVO expired.
This can have serious ramifications for those whom are required to have a firearms licence as part of their employment – such as police officers, national park rangers and those working in the pastoral industry.
Ward Keller have an experienced team of lawyers to assist defendants to navigate the legal system and ensure they achieve the best outcome in the circumstances. This may include contesting the making of a DVO or negotiating on your behalf to include exceptions to the conditions imposed on the defendant if a DVO is to be made. For example, this can include exceptions to allow the parties to communicate for the purposes of making arrangements for the care of children or other family law matters because without such exceptions, a breach of this condition may lead to criminal proceedings being brought against the defendant.
For more information on our criminal law services please click the following link to see our criminal law page: https://www.wardkeller.com.au/areas-of-law/personal/criminal-law/.