The laws contain some requirements that Magistrates must adhere to when making decisions involving family violence. The intention is that the public can expect consistency in outcomes when matters involving family violence come before the Magistrates Court.
The Act contains a much wider purpose than was previously the case under the Victorian law. The Act provides that the use of the new law is to:
A family violence intervention order is an order made by a Magistrate that imposes conditions on a perpetrator of family violence restricting behaviour that causes another person to feel unsafe.
There are two types of family violence Intervention orders - an Interim Order and a Final Order.
The new laws provide police with the power to provide temporary, on the spot, after hours urgent protection for people.
The police can issue a family violence safety notice if there are no other orders in place and the police decide that such a Notice is necessary to ensure the safety of a person, preserve property or protect a child outside normal court hours. This procedure will be available for a two year trial period only, commencing 8 December 2008.
The new laws also give police powers to direct a person to remain at a particular place, go to another place or to remain in the company of a police officer or other person. The police can only give such directions for a limited period. The police have the power to arrest and detain a person if they refuse to comply with such a direction.
Family members affected by family violence, the parent of a child who is affected by family violence, a guardian, a police officer and other people with permission of the Court can apply for a Family Violence Intervention Order.
“Family members” are defined broadly in the Act to include spouses, domestic partners, people in intimate personal relationships, relatives and any person who is regarded as being "like a family member" if it is reasonable to regard them in that way in light of the circumstances of the relationship. An example might be a relationship between a person with a disability and their carer.
The new laws state that, for the Act, family violence is:
Examples include overhearing threats of physical abuse, seeing or hearing assaults of family members, comforting or providing assistance to a family member who has been physically abused by another family member, cleaning up a site after a family member has damaged property and being present when police attend an incident involving family violence.
“Family violence” includes the following types of behaviour:
The law in Victoria now recognises that economic abuse is a form of family violence.
Economic abuse, for the Act, is behaviour by a person which is coercive, deceptive or unreasonably controls another person without their consent:
Examples include coercing a person to relinquish control over assets and income, preventing a person from seeking or keeping employment.
Others are removing or keeping a family member's property without permission, or threatening to do so, coercing a person to claim social security payments and preventing a person (without lawful excuse) from having access to joint financial assets for the purposes of meeting normal household expenses.
For the purposes of the Act, emotional or psychological abuse means behaviour by a person towards another person that torments, intimidates, harasses or is offensive to the other person.
Examples include repeated derogatory taunts, including racial taunts, threatening to disclose a person's sexual orientation to the person's friends or family against the person's wishes.
Others are threatening to withhold a person's medication, preventing connections with family or culture and threatening to commit suicide or self harm or injuries to others with the intention of tormenting or intimidating a family member.
There are two types of Family Violence Intervention Orders - Interim orders and final orders. An Interim order is an order made for a short interim period until the Court has time to hear all of the evidence and make a final decision about a person's application for a family violence intervention order.
A court can make an Interim family violence Intervention order if it determines that it is necessary, pending a final decision about an Application to ensure the safety of an affected family member, to preserve property of such a family member or to protect a child. The Court can also make an Interim Order if the parties consent to it being made or the person accused of family violence does not oppose an Order being made.
An Interim order can also be made if a family violence safety notice has been made and the Court decides that there are no circumstances to justify discontinuing protection of the person until the final decision is made. A Court can make a Final Family Violence Intervention Order if it is satisfied that a person accused of committing family violence has committed family violence against an affected family member and is likely to do so again.
If a person breaches a family violence intervention order or a family violence safety notice, the police may charge them with a criminal offence. If they are found guilty, they may receive a level 7 prison sentence which is up to two years, a level 7 fine which is currently up to $27,120.00, or both. They will also have a criminal record. A breach of an Intervention Order is, therefore, a very serious matter.
There are some other matters covered by the Act including such things as Orders that can be made against children and specific rules applying to such matters.