An AVO is intended to protect a person and their immediate family from the threat of violence or harassment from someone else.
Taking out an AVO against someone can have a serious impact on their life, and can restrict where they live, the places they visit and even their ability to carry out their employment.
As AVOs are not considered criminal offences, making false AVO claims is not considered to be a criminal offence of false accusation.
But once made, it can be difficult to withdraw an AVO, particularly if it is in a situation where domestic violence is alleged to be a factor.
In many cases, the grounds for serving someone with an AVO can be difficult to prove.
Alleged incidents may have occurred without witnesses, and in certain situations, police will automatically take out an AVO without the consent of the person in need of protection (PINOP).
This can make it difficult to successfully contest an AVO if a PINOP has made false claims, and even if the PINOP wants the AVO revoked, the police may refuse.
Why do people make false AVO claims?
People may falsely take out an AVO against someone else for a number of reasons, including anger, and as a way to gain an advantage over the other person. Sometimes people are not aware of the significance of an AVO, and how it can affect the defendant.
A defendant may also attempt to prevent the AVO or restrict some of its conditions by claiming that the PINOP is making false accusations against them when this is not the case.
Again this can be difficult to prove, and can lead to an unpleasant and stressful situation for the PINOP.
How common are false AVO claims?
False AVO claims are reasonably common, and are recognised as common by many magistrates.
According to a recent survey of magistrates in NSW, conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), just over half the magistrates surveyed (58.5%) said that they dealt with ‘frivolous or vexatious’ APVOs occasionally.
Only 10% of magistrates stated that they dealt with false AVO claims more than half the time.
According to the report, the most common types of false AVO are those that involve trivial and insignificant matters and cases where there is only one incident of alleged harassment involved, rather than an ongoing situation.
The BOCSAR report only dealt with Apprehended Personal Violence Orders rather than Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders, so the results may be different concerning AVOs that involve allegations of domestic violence.
How can I deal with a false AVO claim?
Taking out an AVO against someone is a serious matter, and one that should not be done lightly.
If you have taken out a personal AVO in haste, or in the heat of the moment, and wish to have the allegations withdrawn, you can explain in writing and request to have the AVO revoked or by telling the magistrate in court that you no longer wish to pursue the AVO.
It’s a good idea to get legal advice from a specialist criminal lawyer, however, as you may have to pay any legal costs incurred by the other party until the time that you withdraw the AVO.
In cases where domestic violence is alleged, and the AVO is taken out on someone by police, police will often continue with the AVO regardless of what the alleged victim wants.
If you have been served with an AVO under a false claim, it is important to speak to a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
An experienced criminal lawyer can explain the process, take steps to resolve the dispute without having to go to a hearing or, if the matter proceeds to a hearing, provide you with a strong defence against the AVO in court.