Written by John Sutton
Published under Law Reform
October 29, 2013
As criminal defence lawyers, we regularly help clients defend frivolous and vexatious Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs). The reasons why people pursue AVOs in circumstances where they are not justified are many and varied. However, for our clients, defending a false allegation is an upsetting experience. The sentiment that we often hear is “how can they get away with this?” This week, the New South Wales Government agreed that the current laws protecting AVO defendants from false allegations are not strong enough, and is proposing new laws to address this. However, some may ask whether the new laws go far enough.
The new laws will make it a crime to make false allegations in order to obtain an Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs). An APVO is an order protecting people who have not been in a domestic relationship with each other. Examples include your neighbour, business partner or a stranger.
The new offence will be punishable by imprisonment of up to 12 months and/or a fine of $1,100. The Government will put the laws before Parliament this week.
You might be wondering why there aren’t already laws stopping people from making false accusations to Police. The answer is that such laws do exist, but they have significant gaps in relation to AVO applications. The new law seeks to fill these. Under the current law it is a crime to make a false accusation to the Police in an attempt to have the other person investigated for an offence. There are two problems with applying this law to AVO proceedings:
Although the new laws are a positive step forward for APVOs, they do not address the more common issue of false allegations in Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs). As we said above, the new laws will only apply to APVOs. Hence they will not provide any protection where the person making the false allegations against you is someone that you have lived with, a relative or a partner (including an ex). This is a conscious decision on the part of the government in line with their policy of encouraging the reporting of domestic violence. Although this is an important policy, it unfortunately leaves a lack of protection for ADVO defendants. In our experience the stakes in ADVOs are usually higher; with relationship breakdowns, custody of children, and property issues often simmering in the background. With emotions running high and ulterior motives false accusations are not unheard of. Unfortunately, the new law’s positive step forward for APVO defendants will not be shared by those who find themselves victims of their ex-partner’s false accusations.