A Violence Restraining Order (“VRO”) is an order made by the Magistrates Court of Western Australia to restrain a person from either committing an act of abuse, breaching the peace, causing fear, damaging property or intimidating another person. A VRO is used when an act of abuse has been committed against another person or there is a reasonably belief that it may occur.
In VRO proceedings the person with whom the order is made to restrain is known as the respondent or the person bound by the order and the person who the order is seeking to protect is known as the protected person.
When obtaining a VRO there are two options which can be utilised by the person seeking to be protected.
Firstly, a violence restraining order form, which can be found on the Magistrates Court of Western Australia website, must be completed and filed either electronically or on the Magistrates Court website or by attending the court registry. When filing the form you will be asked whether you would like to have the first hearing in the presence of the respondent or in his or her absence.
If you ask to have the hearing in absence of the respondent, the application will be heard in a closed court in front of a Magistrate or two Justices of the Peace. This means that the general public will not be able to access the court room whilst your matter is being heard.
During this hearing you will be entitled to have an approved support person attend court with you during the application however, this person cannot be a witness or a party to your application.
If the Magistrate or Justices of the Peace believe that there is sufficient reason for a VRO to be necessary an interim order will be issued and served upon the respondent by the police. The order will not be effective until it has been served on the person bound by the order.
Once served the respondent has 21 days to file a consent to the order with the court or to otherwise make an objection to the issuing of a final order.
If the respondent consents or does nothing within 21 days after being served, the interim order will become final and both yourself and the other party will be notified of this.
If the respondent lodges an objection the court will set a hearing date where they will consider whether there is any merit to the application and if the order is necessary on a final basis.
You will be required to attend this hearing and if you do not do so the court may dismiss your application and the interim order which was previously granted.
If the court believes that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a VRO the court will order a final VRO and if the respondent is in the court it will come into effect immediately.
If when filing your application for a VRO you request that the first hearing be in the presence of the respondent the court will fix a mention hearing date, usually around 4 weeks from the date of the application so as to allow time for service on the respondent, and both the respondent and yourself will be required to attend.
If at this hearing the respondent does not agree to the restraining order a trial date will be set and the matter will go to trial.
A violence restraining order can end in several circumstances. Firstly, by a time stipulated on the order or if no time is stated then two years from the date it came into force.
You may also make an application to cancel the violence restraining order by completing a form 8 violence restraining order application to vary or cancel which can be found on the Magistrates Court website and filing it with the Magistrates Court Registry.
If you make an application to cancel the violence restraining order the court will fix a hearing date where the matter will be heard.
For a number of reasons it can often be advisable to have a lawyer represent you if you are either applying for a VRO or you are the respondent to a VRO and you are seeking to have it set aside.
These include the following:
- Lawyers know the law surrounding not only VROs but also evidence and how it should be admitted.
- It can be difficult to face someone who has applied for VRO against you, or, alternatively someone who you fear and have applied for a VRO against, which may mean you don’t present your best case at court.
- There can be serious consequences if a VRO hearing doesn’t go in your favour.
We strongly recommend that people take legal advice when applying for or seeking to overturn a VRO.