Violence Orders Swamping Our Courts

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Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) are swamping the NSW Local Court system.

An ADVO is a court order that aims to protect a person in need of protection (PINOP) from another person. It is a criminal offence to breach an order.

An ADVO can protect a person from: violence or threats of violence, stalking, intimidation, harassment, and property damage or threatened damage.

In 2020, there were 33830 final ADVOs granted by the NSW Courts, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR). This was up from 28812 in 2016, an increase of 17 per cent. This figure does not factor in the number of ADVOs which were not granted.

NSW criminal courts finalised 140,644 court appearances in 2020/21, an increase of 20,394 (17%) from the previous year (120,250 in 2019/20).

On these figures, although the reporting periods do not align exactly, ADVO’s represent roughly one quarter of local court matters finalised in that reporting period. The number of ADVOs applied for by police has been tracking steadily upwards since 2016.

“ADVOs are overwhelming the NSW Local Court system and a new way to deal with these matters has to be found,” Goldman and Co Lawyers’ head of criminal division, Mr Mathew Nott, said.

“The delays in contested matters are an affront to the administration justice and to the rights of the people who stand accused of domestic violence.

“You contest an ADVO, as you have the right to do given the reputational and employment impacts, you need to go before the Courts on at least three occasions and maybe more. The cost can run into thousands of dollars.

“We have one client at Liverpool who has been waiting more than 20 months to have her matter resolved, through no fault of her own.

“Another client is still living with the pressure and will wait 15 months until she is heard at Bankstown.”

Legislators have enacted laws to safeguard the vulnerable and police play a key role in applying to the Courts for protective orders yet there is no doubt the system is being manipulated in some instances.

Police and the courts have become potential playthings of savvy “victims” who make complaints by way of a pre-emptive strike, particularly if there are family law proceedings involving parental custody on foot.

Courts are beset by COVID backlogs, so the delays give the interim ADVOs keep the orders enforceable for lengthy periods even though they may eventually be thrown out.

Even though an ADVO is a civil matter, they are dealt with in the criminal jurisdiction of the NSW Courts.

Mr Nott said one of the issues to resolve was the hardening of police policy which has resulted in a default refusal to negotiate the nature of or the facts underpinning them.

“There is no doubt that many orders would be consented to if police were prepared to amend the facts or the nature of the orders,” Mr Nott said.

“If police softened their policy position, these matters could be resolved in many cases the first time they were before the courts.”

Male and females under 18 are the people most in need of being protected by ADVOs, according to NSW statistics
In the period October 2020 to September 2021 (the reporting period), 5565 young men were the Person(s) in Need of Protection (PINOP). In the same period, 6385 young women were the PINOPs.

The number of female victims was almost double that of male victims with 34453 women being protected by AVOs compared to 17709 men.

In 2020 in NSW, the most AVOs, 195, were issued on the Central Coast of NSW, though Broken Hill had the highest per capita rate of offending with 348.2 offences per 100,000 people.

Males aged 30-39 years were most likely to offend, with 8898 beings subject to orders in the reporting period. Females in the same age range were also the highest offending citizens with 2570 being subject to Orders in the same period.

The most breaches of Orders occurred on the Central Coast.

Amendments to legislation now means the default duration of ADVOs to two years and new provisions allow the court to make an ADVO for an indefinite period.
There are also strategic advantages often used PINOP when police make the application for an ADVO.

The PINOP can reach out and make contact with the person restrained – no crime – to entice the person restrained to reply which constitutes a breach, then denounce that person for breach to the police.

The police will not withdraw an ADVO, as a rule.

The police will, depending upon the officer in charge, will take the defendant’s representations to the victim to consider. This should not be discretionary and should be evidenced.

If you have to deal with an ADVO, contact mathew@goldman-lawyers.com for a free consultation.

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