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Is it time to intervene in Victoria?
Intervention orders are meant to be cheap, easy and accessable. But have those traits left the process open for abuse? In Victoria it’s becoming increasingly apparent that orders are being misused.
An intervention order is a broad category that generally refers to one of two types of order, a Family Violence Intervention Order or a Personal Safety Intervention Order. A Family Violence Intervention Order is designed to enable a person who is a victim of emotional, financial, physical or sexual abuse by a family member to seek help. A Personal Safety Intervention Order allows a person who is a victim of sexual or physical assault, harassment, stalking, serious threats, or property damage where the person committing the alleged offences is not a member of the victims family to seek assistance.
Having either order made against you is not a crime, the respondent to the order (the person whom the order is made against) is instructed by the Court to abide by certain conditions for a set period of time. These conditions generally include provisions such as no contact orders, and orders to prevent the damage or interference of property, and to prevent the affected person from gaining the help of another in order to contact the victim, or damage or interfere with their property.
Intervention orders are purposefully cheap and easy. With no filing fee in Victoria, and assistance from the registrar, nearly anyone can apply for an order. This ease of access in turning out to be both a burden and a boon, as they are easily accessible for those that require assistance, but also being increasingly used to interfere or annoy others, or to gain an advantage in family law proceedings.
A recent article in The Age highlights some situations where these orders are being abused. Examples of non-family disputes that display no threat of violence or property damage that are being dealt with in the Magistrates Court, rather than the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. Further examples are given where parties involved in family law disputes will bring an application for an intervention order against the other party to use as ‘an extra string to their bow’ in order to ‘ boost their application in the Family Court’.
Caroline Counsel of the Law Institute of Victoria agrees that concerns over abuse of process exist, but advocates for the courts to err on the side of caution by granting orders.
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