Monday, October 29, 2012

Tackling Victorian Family Violence

Wow. Tackling family violence in Victoria. It's a huge topic. A vexed topic. And thankfully it isn't quite the topic of this post.

My work in community legal centres and legal aid has taken me to three different places in Victoria where I have appeared in family violence matters in three different magistrates courts - Werribee, Geelong and now Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

I'm more familiar with procedures in NSW with Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) which were once dealt with under Part XVA of the Crimes Act. Victoria has a scheme for granting civil orders protecting victims of family violence which is governed by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (FVPA) which was introduced in December 2008. This Act provides for police issuing safety notices and applying to the Court for intervention orders (often referred to as 'IVO's).

Police can also issue criminal charges against the perpetrator where there's enough evidence to base a charge of assault. Criminal charges are made in addition to, not instead of, a civil IVO.

A victim can obtain a final IVO for a defined or indefinite period of time. This can be granted on the first occasion when the matter is in court, and will be granted:

* if the defendant/perpetrator does not show up to court in which case it will be dealt with in their absence. Usually the applicant/victim will be put in the witness box and asked about incidents of violence and the nature of fears to the victim's safety as well as the safety of any children and property of the victim.

* if the defendant/perpetrator does show up and agrees to the making of orders, often without admitting any of the allegations made by the applicant/victim.

If no agreement is reached on the first occasion the matter is in Court, the parties can agree to have the matter delayed ('adjourned') to a future date to allow them more time to negotiate.

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