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How to withdraw a complaint about family violence

Information about how to withdraw a complaint about violence that is made to police.

When the police have been called to an incident of family violence they will investigate even if the affected family member (AFM) does not want to make a complaint. The initial call may or may not have been made by the AFM. Police are often called by other family members, neighbours, agencies or by people who wish to remain anonymous.

Similarly, police may apply for an intervention order even if the affected family member does not want this to happen. If police apply for the order there are limits on the kinds of conditions that can be included in the order.

See Applying for an order.

What if the AFM does not want the police to charge the accused?

An affected family member may not want the accused person to be charged with a criminal offence.

It is important to explain to the caller that criminal charges are separate proceedings to the application for an intervention order, which is a civil matter. Just because an intervention order is finalised, does not mean that criminal charges won't be laid by police.

If the AFM does not want the accused person to be charged with a criminal offence they may choose to ask that the police take no further action. The police will record this at the end of the person's statement.

It is up to the police to make a decision whether or not to charge the person. They will decide based on the evidence and not on the wishes of the family member.

Police must not encourage AFMs to drop their complaint

According to the police policy, police are not allowed to encourage victims to:

  • sign a statement of no complaint or
  • ask that no further action be taken.

See Victoria Police—Code of practice for the investigation of family violence(opens in a new window).

To withdraw a complaint — ask police for a Statement of no complaint

If an affected family member wants to withdraw their complaint to police, they can contact the police and ask to sign a 'Statement of no complaint'. (Sometimes police may refer to this as a 'Statement of no further police action').

What is a statement of no complaint (SONC)?

A statement of no complaint is a formal statement by a victim of crime (in this case the AFM) taken by police that indicates that the victim des not police to take any further action against the accused. These statements are commonly sought in family violence matters.

Even if an AFM signs a statement there is no guarantee that the police will drop the charges. It will depend on whether there is enough evidence to support the charge without the co-operation of the affected family member.

What needs to be included in a statement of no complaint?

The statement must include the reasons why a person wants to withdraw the complaint. The affected family member should think carefully what those reasons are.

Police will use this information when they decide whether to investigate any further

It might be a good idea for the person to limit the information they give in their statement of no complaint to the minimum required. This is important so that the AFM does not contradict information that they gave in their initial statement to police. It is possible that the AFM could be charged with an offence if this happens.

See Possible criminal charges for the AFM

This statement has to include the following information:

  • that the victim reported a particular offence to police and that they desire that no further action be taken
  • explain the reasons that they no longer want any more action taken
  • that they are making the statement of their own free will and
  • that they were not pressured, intimidated or under duress.

See 4.5—Victoria Police—Code of practice for the investigation of family violence(opens in a new window).

Will the police stop the investigation?

The police will need to also write a report that accompanies this signed statement of no complaint. This report will be submitted to an authorised officer who will decide whether or not to continue the investigation. It will not be possible for the AFM to withdraw other information that the police have gathered during their investigation, such as the notes written in the police notebook. Police will warn the victim about this.

See 9 'withdrawal of a complaint' in Victoria Police Manual—Crime attendance and investigation(opens in a new window).

Whether or not they continue their investigation will depend on:

  • the seriousness of the offence
  • whether they believe it is in the public interest for the investigation to continue
  • whether there has been a history of family violence
  • how the AFM's attitude will affect the outcome of the investigation
  • the allocation of police resources to investigate.

See cl. 4.5—Victoria Police—Code of practice for the investigation of family violence(opens in a new window).

See the witnesses topic for more information about the process of making a statement of no complaint

Possible criminal charges for the AFM

Do not contradict an earlier statement

The affected family member should be careful not to contradict anything that they have already said in prior statements. This could leave them open to a charge of 'making a false statement' or hindering police in the conduct of their duty.

A victim who makes a statement to police giving a particular version of events who then provides an alternate version of events in the form of a statement of no complaint may be charged with criminal offences.

Possible charges that police could make against the victim include:

Making a false report to police (perjury)

There are harsh penalties for people who make false statements to police. The maximum penalty for perjury is 15 years prison.
Examples of perjury could include a victim:

  • making a statement to police giving a particular version of events, and then providing an alternate version of events in the form of a statement of no complaint
  • giving and signing a witness statement to police knowing some or all of it to be false
  • lying in an affidavit or statutory declaration, or
  • giving false evidence in court.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty for this offence is 15 years jail.

See s. 314(3)—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Summary offence of making a false report to police

Making a false statement to police is also an offence under the summary offences Act. To be guilty of this offence the police will have to prove that a person:

  • reported an act that required investigation
  • the report was made voluntarily
  • the report was false
  • the person knew it was false.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty for this offence is 12 months jail.

See s. 53—Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Risks for the perpetrator if victim makes a statement of no complaint

A perpetrator of family violence who pressures a victim into making a statement of no complaint, in order to get criminal charges withdrawn, may open themselves up to further criminal charges, such as:

Attempting to pervert the course of justice

Attempting to pervert the course of justice is an offence under common law.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty is 25 years jail.

See s. 320—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Intimidating or threatening a witness

The respondent could be charged with the offence of Intimidation or reprisals relating to involvement in criminal investigation or criminal proceeding if they try to persuade an AFM to withdraw a complaint.
Examples of behaviour that could lead to this kind of charge include:

  • using intimidation towards victim
  • engaging in conduct that arouses apprehension or fear in the victim for their safety, or
  • punishing a witness for giving evidence.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty is 10 years jail.

See s. 257—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Breaching an intervention order

A perpetrator could be charged with this offence if there is an intervention order or safety notice in place and they commit further family violence towards a protected person (usually the AFM).

‘Family violence’ includes behaviour that is physically or sexually abusive, but can also include emotional or psychological abuse, and threatening, coercive, controlling or dominating behaviour.

See What is family violence?

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty is a $30,000 fine and/or 2 years in jail for first offence.

If the perpetrator has breached an intervention order before this the maximum penalties are $90,000 fine and/or 5 years jail for persistently breaching.

See ss.123, 123A, 125A—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Breaching an order

Harassing a witness

It is an offence to harass a witness under the Summary Offences Act 1966.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty is 12 months jail.

See s. 52A—Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)

  • s. 45—police may apply for a family violence intervention order

See Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

  • s. 257—intimidation or reprisals relating to involvement in criminal investigation or criminal proceeding
  • s. 314(3)—perjury
  • s. 320—maximum term of imprisonment for certain common law offences (including attempting to pervert the course of justice)

See Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)

  • s. 52A—offence to harass a witness etc
  • s. 53—making false reports to police etc

See Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence (Code)

  • 4.1—about the criminal options
  • 4.2—investigation of family violence
  • 4.5—withdrawal of complaint criminal

See Victoria Police—Code of practice for the investigation of family violence(opens in a new window).

Victoria Police Manual

Updated