Court-sanctioned Family Violence Intervention Orders (FVIO) are the first port of call for victims of family violence. Anna Goldsborough, a magistrate specialising in family violence, believes that intervention orders are a crucial method in curbing actions of future family violence (as cited in Morris, 2015). A total of 46,000 court orders were instituted by the Magistrates Court in 2013, however, 9000 breaches of these orders were prosecuted.
This demonstrates a significant issue of these orders being regularly violated, and only a minority being put to trial and enforced. Additionally, these official court figures do not account for unreported breaches. Frontline domestic violence workers contend the number of breaches is much higher as most victims are unwilling to report violations to police (Morris, 2015).
It is reported that 87% of breaches which go to trial result in a conviction, and 68% of which result in non-custodial sentences (Berkovic & Scott, 2021). This includes community service, adjourned undertakings, work orders or fines.
The maximum punishment for disobeying a FVIO is two years’ imprisonment and fines of approximately $36,400. Aggravated contravention offences include a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $91,002 (Sentencing Advisory Council, 2015).
The fact that breaches of FVIOs still occur in large numbers may cause family violence victims to worry that their protection orders do not act as serious deterrent to a current or former partner willing to continually violate the orders.
When domestic violence is said to be a ‘blight on Australian society’ with one woman being murdered by a current or former partner every week, clearly more must be done to redress this problem.
There are some suggestions made by Adjunct Professor Rob Hulls, who works at the Centre for Innovative Justice in RMIT. He proposes flash incarceration as a remedy, where perpetrators are sentenced to prison for short periods, typically 24 hours (as cited in Morris, 2015).
Rob Hulls stated in an interview with Morris (2015), “it [has] been trialled in other jurisdictions including the United States and also the United Kingdom, and it sends a very strong message to a perpetrator that these court orders are serious, a breach has serious consequences.”
Additionally, criminalising coercive control as an arrestable offence is a reform that our practise has mooted as a progressive legislative measure. This judicial reform pre-emptively prevents breaches of court orders and violent behaviour through identifying the pattern of emotionally and psychologically abusive behaviours that commonly portend domestic violence.
Even so, there is an array of factors that must be weighted up when sending a husband or a father to prison. This includes whether imprisonment could culminate in future acts of violence following their release and the fact that some women do not want their current or former partner incarcerated, just for the violence or abuse to end.
Sentencing alternatives include mandated attendance of perpetrators at addiction, mental health or behavioural-change services which need to be made more available (Berkovic & Scott, 2021).
If you are charged with a domestic violence offence or breach of intervention order, please call Rowan Skinner on 9995 9155 for a no-obligation advice.
Berkovic, N., & Scott, M. (2021, April 23). Men Breaching Domestic Violence Orders. The Australian. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/men-breaching-domestic-violence-orders/newsstory/98bb2f254cdff6f2ff40638e7f413374?btr=cf1e7d8593298964cf69d230f4eb c27b
Morris, M. (2015, April 2). Thousands of domestic violence intervention orders being violated. ABC
News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-02/domestic-violence-intervention-orders-being violated/6369336
Sentencing Advisory Council. (2015, December 3). Increased Penalties Imposed for Breach of Family Violence Orders in Victoria. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/news -media/media-releases /increased-penalties-imposed-for-breach-of-family-violence-orders