Restraining orders

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What is a restraining order?

An intervention order is an order made by a court to protect a person from potential abuse (including physical harm, mental harm, emotional harm, harassment) or to protect a child from seeing or hearing abuse.

An intervention order prevents one person from acting in a certain way towards another. For example, an intervention order may prevent a person from approaching you, approaching your family, approaching your home, contacting you, publishing information about you, taking or damaging property or from encouraging others to do such things.

When can I apply for a restraining order?

You can apply for an intervention order if you suspect that someone will commit an act of abuse against you. An act of abuse includes:

  • Behaviour that is intended to cause or causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm
  • Damage to your property or damage to someone else’s property you are using or looking after
  • Unreasonably controlling parts of your daily life without your consent, including your social, personal and financial choices.

The following people can apply for an intervention order:

  • The person needing protection
  • A representative of a person needing protection
  • The police
  • A child who may hear or see abuse
  • A parent or representative if the child is under the age of 14.

If you want some advice about applying for a restraining order in your situation, you can contact us here.

Applying for a restraining order

If you feel that you are in immediate danger, you should call the police. They can issue an interim intervention order on the spot. They will ask you what has happened and why you need the order. If the police issue the order, they will give it to the person you need protecting from (the defendant). The order will be effective as soon as it is given to the defendant.

When the police write the order they will also give you a time and place for the defendant to appear in Court. The police will tell you if you need to attend this hearing, but it may be helpful to your case to attend even if you are not required to do so. At the Court the magistrate will review the order and may make it permanent, change the conditions and then make it permanent, or cancel the order. If you do not attend, a police officer will let you know what the outcome was.

If the situation is not urgent, you can still go to the police and they will help you apply for the intervention order. You can also go to the Magistrates Court yourself and apply in person. If you make the application yourself, you must attend the court hearing.

You can find more information on the process of getting an intervention order here.

Cancelling or varying restraining orders

Either the person seeking the order (or the police or a representative) or the person who it is made against can apply to have the order stopped or changed.

What happens once I apply for a restraining order?

If the defendant does not follow the directions of the order you should report it to the police. Breaching a protection order is a criminal offence which can be punishable by a fine or a prison term.

What happens if someone applies for a restraining order against me?

If an interim order is made against you, it will apply to you as soon as the order is delivered to you. An interim order or notice of an application for an order (without a previous interim order) will require you to go to court at a specific time. You will then have the chance to tell the magistrate your side of the story. The magistrate will do one of three things:

  • Make the interim order a final order or make a final order
  • Change the terms of the interim order (if any) and then make it a final order
  • End the interim order without making a final order or refuse to make a final order.

If you accept the order, you do not have to go to court. However, if you don’t want the order or want to change it, you should attend. You can find more information on how you can dispute an order made against you here.

Having an intervention order against you is not a criminal offence and will not go on your criminal record, but breaching the terms of an intervention order is a criminal offence and may go on your criminal record. If you breach the terms of the intervention order against you, you may have to go to prison for up to 2 years.  

Once a final intervention order has been issued you only have 21 days in which to apply to appeal it. A person against which a final intervention order is made cannot apply to have it varied or removed until the time specified in the order, this is usually a period of 12 months. A court is unlikely to remove a final intervention order after it has been issued unless the situation has changed. Also a court is unlikely to change the terms of a final intervention order unless they are unreasonable and not necessary to protect the person in whose favour they were issued. It is important that you read the terms of any intervention order against you very carefully and do not do anything inconsistent with the terms of that intervention order. You should not do something inconsistent with an intervention order even if the person who it is aimed at protecting consents to, encourages you to or asks you to do that thing.

For example, if you are prohibited from communicating with a person do not answer their calls or reply to their SMS messages or else you may breach your intervention order. If the person being protected would like you to behave in a way which is inconsistent with the intervention order they can seek to have it removed or changed.

If someone has applied for a restraining order against you and you would like some advice, please contact us here.

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