23 October 2016


Breach rate of Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders in NSW [PDF], a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), demonstrates that the breach rate of Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) is much lower than the 50% figure quoted in past media reports.

BOCSAR comments
Past efforts to estimate the breach rate of ADVOs have simply divided the number of ADVO breaches by the number of final ADVOs granted. This ignores the fact that one order may generate several breaches and different types of ADVOs can be breached.
There are three types of ADVOs that can be issued in NSW; Provisional Orders, Interim Court Orders and Final Orders.
Provisional orders are short-term ADVOs that can be granted in urgent situations without the matter having to be brought before the court.
An interim ADVO is a short-term order made by the court which can extend a provisional order or put protection(s) in place for the victim until a final ADVO application can be considered by the court.
A final ADVO can be made by the court after a defended hearing, if a defendant has been served with the ADVO documents but failed to appear in court or in cases where both parties consent to the conditions specified in the order.
BOCSAR tracked all ADVOs granted between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014 (inclusive), taking care not to count multiple breaches of the same order as if they were breaches of different orders.
BOCSAR found that the breach rate was (a) five per cent for provisional orders (b) nine per cent for interim orders and (c) 20 per cent for final orders (which are much longer in duration).
Most breaches involved only one incident per order (88% of provisional order breaches, 73% of interim order breaches and 64% of final order breaches).
Of all ADVOs which were breached, 34% were breached within one month of being granted, 23% within 1-3 months and 18% within 3-6 months. Male, Indigenous and younger offenders breached their final order sooner than other defendants.
The authors of the report note
NSW police attend around 60,000 incidents of assault (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR], 2016a) each year. Around half of these assaults are domestic violence related. Despite significant declines across many offence categories over the last 5 years (including non-domestic violence related assault), domestic violence rates in NSW remain largely unchanged (BOCSAR, 2016a).
Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) are one important tool available to police and criminal justice authorities to help prevent further violence occurring in domestic settings. ADVOs are a civil order that can be granted by the Local Court in accordance with Part 4 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). If granted, the defendant named on the order must comply with three mandatory conditions; (1) not to assault, harass or threaten the protected person, (2) not to intimidate the protected person and (3) not to stalk the protected person (see Part 8 Section 36). The court may also specify any other conditions that they deem necessary to protect the victim(s). If a defendant breaches any of the conditions specified in the order then he/she can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence (attracting penalties of up to $5,500 and/or imprisonment for up to two years). ...
In 2015, NSW Local Courts granted 27,699 final ADVOs for the protection of victims and their families (BOCSAR, 2016b); nearly 3,000 more than were granted in 2011. Given the sheer volume of orders issued across NSW each year, it is important to continually evaluate the extent to which ADVOs can serve to protect victims from further violence. Previous work by BOCSAR has suggested that ADVOs can be effective in reducing the frequency of violence in domestic relationships even if they fail to eliminate the violence in its entirety. Trimboli and Bonney (1997) undertook a study in which female victims of domestic violence were interviewed before and after they had obtained an ADVO and asked about their experience of a set of proscribed behaviours. Overall, these women reported significant reductions in stalking, threats of physical assaults, verbal abuse, nuisance phone calls and other forms of intimidation/harassment in the 4 weeks immediately after the ADVO was served on the defendant. The positive changes were even apparent amongst victims who maintained contact with the defendant and were still evident 6 months after the order was issued. More recent research confirmed these results (Trimboli, 2014) and further indicated that in the absence of specialist legal advice, ADVOs can still serve to improve the safety of most victims. xxxxx A number of recent intimate partner homicides perpetrated by males who were the subject of ADVOs has once again placed ADVOs under scrutiny and led some commentators to question their efficacy in protecting domestic violence victims. In the aftermath of these events media reports suggested that nearly half of all ADVOs issued in NSW are breached and called for major system reforms to be undertaken, including the strengthening of penalties for breaches of these orders (see ‘Call for war on domestic violence as half of all AVOs fail’ The Daily Telegraph, Jan. 18 2015). The breach rate reported in this article was estimated by dividing the total number of ADVO breaches recorded by police during a 12-month period (11,788) by the total number of final ADVOs issued in the same year (26,491). However, this calculation failed to take into account the following factors; (1) a single ADVO can be breached by the same defendant on multiple occasions, (2) breaches can relate to orders other than just final ADVOs and (3) the same defendant could breach multiple different order types. The current brief presents the results from a detailed analysis of ADVOs issued in NSW and ADVO breaches recorded by NSW Police in order to more accurately quantify the proportion of all ADVOs that result in a breach on one or more occasions.