Hunter Women's Centre welcomes plain English apprehended domestic violence orders in Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Review) Act 2016

Growing problem: Ann Morris said the Hunter Women's Centre is funded to see 750 women each year but saw 1100 in the last financial year, up 20 per cent from three years ago. Picture: Helen Gregory

Growing problem: Ann Morris said the Hunter Women's Centre is funded to see 750 women each year but saw 1100 in the last financial year, up 20 per cent from three years ago. Picture: Helen Gregory

INCOMING legislation that has rewritten apprehended violence orders in plain English and has scope to prevent an abuser trying to track their victim could save lives, according to a women’s advocate.

Hunter Women’s Centre manager of business and strategy Ann Morris said the introduction of the new legislation was a step in the right direction to fight the “epidemic” of domestic violence.

“We’re still going to get people breaching the AVO system, but if it saves just one woman’s life it’s worth it – and I’m sure it will save some lives,” Ms Morris said. “It will make women’s lives safer and mean they get to go about their normal day to day life without being harassed and hopefully experience the freedoms we all enjoy.”

The Department of Justice and Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Behavioural Insights Unit developed the simpler wording for both domestic and personal AVOs to improve a defendant’s understanding of and compliance with an order.

The rewritten AVOs are part of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Review) Act 2016, which will commence on Saturday, December 3.

A readability test found a person required 13.5 years of education to understand the current text of an AVO.

The new plain English AVOs will be able to be understood by a 13 year old.

“Perpetrators will take to court that they didn’t understand the AVO,” Ms Morris said. “They are very clever and manipulative and they know how to rort the system.

“But they will not be able to use that excuse any longer.”

Ms Morris said the changes would also help people who did not have English as their first language, were illiterate or had intellectual disabilities.

Each AVO application currently includes three mandatory orders, which prohibit the defendant from assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening or otherwise interfering; intimidating; and stalking the protected person. There are 10 additional orders that can be chosen, depending on necessity, for inclusion in an application.

The new legislation includes a fourth mandatory order that prohibits damaging property. “It can be used as a tool to harass and to control,” Ms Morris said. “If you come home to find they’ve broken into your house and taken your clothes and personal effects, smashed your car, ripped your plants out of your garden or hurt your pet, you feel absolutely violated and shaken. It’s a way of saying ‘You might be away from me, but I can still make you fearful and affect your mental health’.”

It also includes new orders that prohibit a defendant from trying to find the protected person and the possession of firearms; and a consolidation of orders relating to contact with children.

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