Intervention Orders: What should I do if I’m served?

-Tom Cuthbertson

wire

Intervention Orders, arising out of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act are an incredibly powerful tool that can be used either through the Police or through private applications in order to regulate personal relationships where there is a risk, or alleged risk, of abuse. While such orders have existed in some variety for a long time, the 2009 Act has strengthened the nature of the orders significantly and, as a consequence, if you are served with an intervention order it is essential that you are properly advised as to how to proceed.

Intervention Orders are often coupled with criminal allegations of assault or a similar nature. Ultimately, it is not uncommon to see that the Police will agree to discontinue or ‘tender no evidence’ with respect to the substantive criminal allegations on the basis that the accused agrees to ‘consent’ to the interim Intervention Order being converted to a Final Order. Often, the stress of facing serious criminal charges will induce an accused person to agree to the Intervention Order being finalised as the most apparently expeditious way of ending the proceedings. This is not something that ought to be done without considering the ramifications of an Intervention Order.

Once an Intervention Order has been confirmed, whether following trial or by consent, then it does not expire unless an Application to Vary or Revoke is brought under the Act; even then, such an application must demonstrate some change in circumstances, without which, the Magistrate hearing the application may dismiss it without hearing further evidence. The effect of this is that Intervention Orders are not capable of being simply revisited down the track and a variation sought where there hasn’t been that change in circumstances. The test at trial presents a lesser hurdle; the applicant (usually Police) need to prove on the balance of probabilities that in the absence of an intervention order the accused is likely to commit a further act of abuse against the applicant. While this does not require the police to prove an act of abuse to the criminal standard, generally, a specific allegation of violence or other abuse under the Act’s extraordinarily broad and non-exclusive definitions, will be lead by the Police in support.

It is particularly important for a defendant to be mindful of the ongoing and serious implications of an Intervention Order, including but not limited to:

  • No person, save for those required to carry firearms for very specific employment purposes, may possess firearms while subject to an Intervention Order;
  • Contraventions of Intervention Orders, whether ‘innocent’ or not, which can be as simple as passing on a message through a friend, carry a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment;
  • Where the protected person contacts you, attends at your home or otherwise causes a breach they cannot be charged with ‘aid and abet’ or otherwise subject to criminal proceedings, however the accused may still be charged;
  • There are consequences with respect to access to children, workplaces, schools and private property that arise out of an Intervention Order.
  • Intervention Orders, even if agreed to on a ‘no admission basis’ can show up in certain workplace/employment police clearance checks and may affect employment prospect

The Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 is one of the more powerful pieces of legislation at the disposal of Magistrates in South Australia due to the far-reaching consequences, lower threshold for a positive finding and the implications for severely restricting the movement, access to private property and often personal lives of defendants. While they are common, this does not mean they ought to be taken lightly. Breaching an Intervention Order, even with the permission of the protected person, can have serious consequences and carries serious penalties.

If you’ve been served with an Intervention Order, it’s important to seek legal advice immediately and to ensure that you are fully informed of the consequences before making any decision as to how to deal with it. You can call Culshaw Miller Criminal Lawyers for 24 Hour advice on 0423 534 621, or alternatively make and appointment online for a free case review.