On 9 December 2011, the South Australian Government introduced new legislation offering greater protection to victims of domestic and personal abuse. This is known as the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009.
What are Intervention Orders?
Intervention Orders now replace what were called Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and are designed to protect victims from many forms of abuse, including threatening and controlling behaviour. They do this by prohibiting the abuser (known as the defendant) from doing certain things and may also require him to undertake certain activities.
Intervention Orders can be issued if someone has been abused or is at risk of abuse. The types of abuse covered include physical abuse, property damage, emotional/psychological harm and denial of financial, social or personal independence. Not only are Intervention Orders designed to protect a woman from abuse, they can also include the woman’s children to protect them from exposure to ongoing abuse.
An Intervention Order can be tailored to meet the needs of the victim. Usually they restrict the abuser from coming near the victim, or making contact with them. They can also exclude him from the family home, require any weapons he owns to be surrendered, and require him to undertake a rehabilitation program to address his abusive behaviour. An order may allow the woman (known as the protected person) to change the locks of the family home. If the home is rented, a copy of the new key must be given to the landlord but the landlord is not allowed to give this to the defendant or allow him to enter the property. A court can then issue a tenancy order which requires the landlord to transfer the lease agreement into the protected person’s name where it is deemed that the protected person can meet the obligations of tenancy. Where it is not safe for a woman to stay in her own home, it can be ordered that the defendant returns her personal property or allows access for her to retrieve this.
Where an Intervention Order is confirmed by the court they are ongoing. They can be changed or removed through an application to the court but the defendant cannot apply for this to happen until it has been in place for 12 months. When this happens, the court must also hear from the protected person and be satisfied that a significant change in circumstances has taken place.
How to obtain an Intervention Order
If you are in immediate danger, call the police. The police can issue what is known as an interim Intervention Order if they determine grounds exist that without this the victim is at risk of abuse and the abuser is present or being held in custody. This interim order serves as an application to the court for a final or confirmed Intervention Order. This allows the victim and her children to be immediately protected. It is important to note that the matter will still proceed to court and an interim order is only temporary until confirmed by a Magistrate.
A woman can apply for a Intervention Order by contacting the police. This can also include any children. If children are aged 14 or older they can apply for their own order. It can be helpful to take the following items when attending the police station:
- notes, including dates and places, about what your abuser has been doing
- any photo evidence of damage the person has done to your property or you
- any abusive emails, SMS and phone calls (make notes or copies to take with you)
- copies of any Federal Magistrate or Family Court orders that apply to your children.
If the police believe you have sufficient grounds to apply, you will need to make a sworn statement (known as an affidavit) to the police telling the story of your circumstances and why you feel you need an Intervention Order. It can take some time to complete this statement so be prepared to be at the police station for about two hours.
You should tell the police if you think your partner has a gun or other weapons, as an order can be made for these to be taken away from him for the duration of the order.
Your application is then presented to the Magistrates Court by a Police Prosecutor. You may need to attend court and the police will let you know if this is required. The defendant does not attend the initial hearing.
If your order is granted, it is then the responsibility of the police to serve the order on the defendant. This means the police hand a copy of the order to the defendant. It is very important to understand that the order does not come into effect until the order has been served on him. You will receive copies of the order from the court and it is recommended you keep a copy with you at all times, as well as provide copies to places that you and your children attend such as your workplace and the children’s school. You can photocopy your order if you need more copies.
If your partner or ex-partner continues to threaten and harass you or break any conditions of the Intervention Order, you need to report this to the police. This is a criminal offence and he can be charged. If there are other people named as protected persons on your order (such as your children) it is also important that you do not do anything that is seen as helping the defendant to breach the order as this is considered aiding and abetting and can result in criminal charges being laid against you.
Others ways to apply for a intervention order
If you would like an Intervention Order but police have advised that they cannot apply for one on your behalf, you can contact Legal Services Commission, a community legal centre or a private lawyer to support you to make your own application to court. To find out more, click here.
While you are waiting for your Intervention Order to be served, it is important that you and your children stay safe. Visit the Safety Planning section of this website to find out more. In summary, we suggest the following:
- Stay with family, friends or in another safe place
- Change your telephone number or switch your mobile off
- If appropriate, take a couple of days off work
- Stay in contact with the police to find out when the Intervention Order has been served.
Go to the state government’s Don’t Cross the Line website and check out Changes to Law about Domestic Violence Fact Sheets
Go to Legal Service’s Commission’s Fact Sheet: Intervention Orders