Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order

The offence of Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order is found in section 123 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 in Victoria. It is a criminal offence that is committed by a person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to follow the conditions of a family violence intervention order.

Have you been accused of Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order?

Police Interview

If you are listed as a respondent on a Family Violence Intervention Order (“FVIVO”), and the police have contacted you about contravening certain conditions, they will want to interview you. Call us to get some strategic advice about how to approach the police interview.

What you say, or don’t say, could have significant consequences. To have sound legal advice from the outset ensures the process is not only carefully considered, but involves as little stress as possible.

The police interview about this kind of offending is not a chance to explain your side of the story and hope not to be charged.

Pleading Not Guilty

Just because the police have charged you with contravening a FVIVO doesn’t mean you are guilty. There is a presumption that you are “innocent until proven guilty”. The victim may have made up the allegations against you to get you in trouble with the police or to get an advantage over you in family law proceedings. Whatever it is, we are experts in assessing and advising on a brief of evidence. We can look at the strength of the police case, and discuss your defence. This might be through attacking the police case, or building our own case to disprove the allegations.

Our lawyers provide a comprehensive service right up to the final verdict, if the matter gets that far.

Pleading Guilty

Our lawyers are understanding when it comes to the sensitive nature of family violence, intervention orders, and breaches. We can explore with you why you contravened conditions, put things in place to assist your matter (for example counselling, strategies to avoid re-offending and to ensure best possible outcome in court) and advise on the likely consequences. Our supportive and empathetic approach means your side of the story will be handled with care and conveyed to the court in an appropriate and sympathetic way.

Sentencing in the higher courts of Victoria
Sentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Contravene a Family Violence Intervention Order in the Higher Courts of Victoria Between 2017 and 2022Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria
Sentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Contravene a Family Violence Intervention Order in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria Between 2018 and 2021Which court will the case be heard in?

This offence will generally be heard in the Magistrates’ court.

Examples of Contravening a Family Violence Intervention Order
  • You and your partner go through a messy break up, and your partner applies for a family violence intervention order. You do not consent to the order, so an interim order is put in place, and the conditions include not contacting your partner by any means or go within 100m of her residence and place of work. The following actions would likely constitute breaches:
    • You find it hard to adjust to not talking to your partner anymore, and you send her a message saying you want to get back together.
    • Your partner continually messages you and calls you and begs for you to return her calls. You return her call.
    • Your partner works at a supermarket, and you decide you’ll do your grocery shopping there. You don’t talk to her, but she sees you shopping for items.
    • You get drunk and call your partner. You don’t say anything but you stay on the phone for 10 seconds and then hang up.

The offence of Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order is governed by section 123 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008.

Elements of the offence

The prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. A family violence intervention order has been made
    This will generally be easy to prove. The prosecution should provide you with a copy of the order when they give you the brief of evidence.
  2. The family violence intervention order has been served on the respondent, or the respondent has had an explanation of the order given to them by a person in accordance with sections 57 or 96.
    Again, this element is not usually in issue. The prosecution need to show that you were aware of the contents of the order.Under section 57, the court must give a clear, oral explanation to a respondent outlining:
    1. the purpose, terms and effect of the interim order;
    2. the consequences and penalties that may follow if the respondent fails to comply with the terms of the interim order;
      • ba. that the interim order may be enforced against the respondent in another State or a Territory
    3. when the interim order expires and the means by which the interim order may be varied;
    4. that the interim order is a civil order of the court and the protected person cannot give permission to contravene the interim order;
    5. the process for deciding the final order;
    6. how the order interacts with a Family Law Act order or an order under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005;
    7. if the court has varied, suspended, revoked or revived a Family Law Act order because it is inconsistent with the interim order, the purpose, terms and effect of the variation or suspension;
    8. any relevant family violence services offering legal, emotional or practical support that may be available to the protected person or respondent.

    It’s important to note that if the court fails to tell you any of the above, this does not affect the validity of the order. Also, if you receive a copy of the order and refuse to read the contents, this is not a defence.

    Section 96 essentially has the same requirements in respect of a full intervention order.

  3. The respondent contravenes the order.
    This is generally the most contentious element. You and a lawyer should examine the conditions on the order carefully, and work out whether you breached the order.Some common conditions of IVOs include not committing family violence, not damaging the protect person’s property, not contacting the protected person by any means, and not going within a certain distance of where the protected person lives or works.Family violence is widely defined in section 5 of the Act and includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, threatening or coercive behaviour, controlling or dominating the protected person, and exposing a child to family violence.Section 6 defines economic abuse as denying the second person the financial autonomy they would have had but for that behaviour, or withholding financial support from the second person (or their child) in circumstances where the second person is dependant on that person for financial support for their reasonable living expenses.
  4. The respondent had the requisite state of mind.
    There is debate over the state of mind required under section 123. It is unlikely an offence carrying a maximum penalty of two years could be committed through mere carelessness or inadvertence, so it’s likely the prosecution will need to prove that you intentionally or recklessly committed the act which breached the order. In Ke Kaw The v The Queen (1985) 157 CLR 523, the High Court held by a 4:1 majority that it was improbable that Parliament intended that a serious criminal offence with serious consequences could be committed as a result of mere carelessness. Gibbs CJ said the following at 528-9:“There is a presumption that mens rea, an evil intention, or a knowledge of the wrongfulness of the act, is an essential ingredient in every offence; but that presumption is liable to be displaced by the words of the statute creating the offence or by the subject-matter with which it deals, and both must be considered.”This means that the pocket dial scenario described earlier would probably not constitute a breach, as you might have no idea that your phone rang the protected person’s number. However, if you called the protected person without really turning your mind to whether you were breaching the order, that would probably constitute a breach. Of course, every scenario is different and turns on its own facts.

Cases related to the offence of Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order may be defended on the basis of sudden or extraordinary emergency, necessity, duress, impossibility, factual errors, failure to comply with the elements of the offence, and the concept of putting the prosecution to their proof.

Further, if you are a respondent under both a family violence safety notice and an intervention order in respect of the same protected person, then the order with the least restrictive conditions prevails to the extent of any inconsistency between the two. This means if you breach the intervention order but not the safety notice, it will not be considered a breach.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did the order actually prevent you from contacting the protected person? Look at the conditions of the order, because they can vary significantly.
  • Was the protected person genuinely mistaken? Maybe they thought they saw you, or heard your voice, but it wasn’t you.
  • Was it a genuine mistake on your part? For instance, you could have ‘pocket dialled’ the protected person and you didn’t realise.

This area of law tends to be highly emotional and complex and there are serious consequences which flow from a finding of guilt. Because of this, it is important to get a lawyer who is going to be able to tell your side of the story.

Maximum penalty for section 123 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008

The offence of Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order (s123 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008) carries a maximum fine of 240 penalty units or maximum of 2 years imprisonment, or both.

Case studies related to Contravene Family Violence Intervention Order
Other important resources