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Safety notices

Information about family violence safety notices issued by police to protect people from a violent family member.

The police can issue a family violence safety notice if a person needs immediate protection. A family violence safety notice is a notice to protect a person from an adult family member who is using family violence.

The police officer who attends at the incident must believe on reasonable grounds that a notice is necessary to protect:

  • the safety of an affected family member before the matter can come before the court
  • the property of an affected family member before the matter can come before the court
  • a child who has been subjected to family violence by the respondent.

See s, 24(e)—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

When safety notices can be issued

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 was amended to enable a police sergeant to issue a safety notice at any time.

See s. 24—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If there is also a FVIO or recognised domestic violence order

If the police issue a family violence safety notice and there is an existing FVIO in place (between the affected family member and the respondent), if there is an inconsistency between the safety notice and the intervention order, the FVIO prevails to the extent of the inconsistency.

However, if police issue a family violence safety notice and there is a recognised domestic violence order (DVO)(made by a court interstate or in NZ) the respondent must comply with both the safety notice and the DVO. If it is not possible for the respondent to comply with both the safety notice and the DVO, then the safety notice prevails.

See ss. 39, 40—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Who decides if a notice may be issued?

The police officer who attends the scene applies to a senior ranking police officer with a rank of sergeant of above. The senior officer decides whether a notice may be issued.

The senior officer:

  • must hear the police officer who applied for the notice
  • must be satisfied that the police officer has applied for the notice on reasonable grounds
  • may also hear from the respondent and the affected family member if practicable.

The senior police officer may issue a notice if they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect the safety or property of the affected family member, or to protect a child.

See s. 26—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

When safety notices will not be issued

Safety notices are not available if a police officer and the senior police officer reasonably suspect that the:

  • respondent is a child
  • respondent has a cognitive impairment
  • conditions of the notice are inconsistent with:
    • Family Law Act 1975
    • child protection orders, or
    • community corrections orders (the police officer is expected to make enquiries with the respondent, affected family member and any other adults present about this), or
  • a family violence intervention order is already in place between the parties.

Note: Police can issue a family violence safety notice against a respondent even if there is a recognised domestic violence order that relates to the same respondent and protected person, however the officer must find out before the first mention date, if there actually is such an order in place.

See ss. 24, 26A—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

After hours intervention orders

The after hours services of the court will continue to be available if a safety notice is not permitted. If there is already an intervention order in place, variation may be sought through the court after hours service. A breach action may also be available.

Time limits

A family violence safety notice starts when the notice is served on the respondent.

A person who has been issued with a safety notice should be brought before a court (first mention date) within 14 working days of being served with the notice.

The notice expires either when the court:

  • makes a family violence intervention order and it has been served on the respondent
  • adjourns the application for a family violence intervention order, or
  • refuses to make a family violence intervention order on the first mention date for the application for a family violence intervention order

whichever is the earlier.

See s. 30, 31—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Exclusion condition and respondent may be homeless

If the safety notice includes an exclusion condition that excludes the respondent from their primary place of residence and the officer who issued the notice believes the respondent may not have access to temporary accommodation, the matter must be brought before the court for a first mention hearing as soon as practical.

See s. 31(3)(a)—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Exception if there was a recognised domestic violence order

If there was a recognised domestic violence order in place (made at any court) when the safety notice was issued that relates to the same respondent and protected person, the safety notice will end:

  • on the first mention date if the application for a family violence intervention order is withdrawn on this date
  • if the court orders to vary or extend the order, when the order is served on the respondent

whichever is the earlier.

See ss. 30, 31—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Contravention of a safety notice

Contravening a safety notice is a criminal offence. If a person has been served with a safety notice and explanations given must not contravene a safety notice. There are 2 separate contravention offences. In the most serious instances, a person who contravenes a safety notice may be charged with an indictable offence.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest a person who has breached a safety notice. The arrest powers under the Crimes Act 1958 apply.

See s. 37—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Contravention with intention of causing fear or harm

A person who has been served with a family violence safety notice must not contravene the notice with the intention of causing (or with the knowledge that their conduct would probably cause):

  • physical harm to the protected person or
  • mental harm, including self harm, suicidal thoughts or psychological harm, or
  • apprehension or fear, either for the protected person or any other.

See s. 37A—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Penalties

Contravention with intention of causing harm

The maximum penalty for contravention of a safety notice with the intention of causing harm or fear for safety is:

  • 5 years jail, and/or
  • a fine of 600 penalty units.

See s. 37A—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Contravention of a safety notice

The maximum penalty for contravention of a safety notice where respondent did not intend to cause harm or fear is:

  • 2 years jail and/or
  • a fine of 240 penalty units.

See s. 37—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Contraventions may happen interstate

A person can be charged with contravention of a family violence safety notice even if some of their actions happened outside the state of Victoria, as long as the protected person was in Victoria when the conduct happened. For example a respondent could be charged if they sent threatening texts, posts or phone calls from interstate.

See s. 37 (2A), (2B), 37A(3), (4)—Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Defences

The police must have properly explained what the safety notice means to the respondent according to s. 35 of the Act.

It is also a defence if:

  • the accused has also been issued with a family violence intervention order (relating to the same protected person), and
  • their conduct was not a breach of that intervention order.

It is not a defence if:

  • the accused was a respondent under the family violence safety notice
  • that person was subject to an interstate or NZ recognised domestic violence order made to protect the same person, and
  • the accused's conduct was not a contravention of the recognised domestic violence order.

See:

More information

Legislation

Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)

  • s. 24—application for a family violence safety notice
  • s. 26—decision about a family violence safety notice by a senior police officer
  • s. 26A—police can issue a safety notice even if they believe there may be a domestic violence order in place involving the same respondent and protected person
  • s. 30—duration of a family violence safety notice
  • s. 31(3)(b) - time limit for bringing a safety notice before the court
  • s 35—explanation of family violence safety notice
  • s. 36—the police’s responsibilities in relation to accommodation if a notice is served
  • s. 37—breach of safety notice is a criminal offence and maximum penalty
  • s. 37A—contravention of notice intending to cause harm or fear for safety
  • s. 38—power to arrest without a warrant
  • s. 163—seizure of firearms
  • s. 82(da)—must be no reasonable grounds for belief that there is an inconsistent community corrections order if applying for a safety notice

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

Victoria Police Manual

The Victoria Police Manual has information about the way police are expected to proceed if they are going to issue a family violence safety notice.

See Victoria Police Manual—Family violence safety notice.

Updated