Protection from Harassment: Applying for a Protection Order
What is a Protection Order?
It is an order that protects victims from harassment that has occurred in the past or that is likely to occur in the future and is made under the Protection From Harassment Act. It protects a victim for only a specified period of time, and can be varied, suspended or cancelled once made.
An application under this Act is considered a civil proceeding. Therefore, the relevant form that needs to be filed can be located in the Rules of Court. The application must be filed with the Court and then served on the respondent, then a hearing date is set where both parties can be present. In some cases, an expedited hearing date without the respondent present can be set.
What Kinds of Acts Does a Protection Order Protect You from?
There are 5 broad types of acts that a Protection Order can protect you from:
- Use of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, words or communication with the intent of causing harassment, alarm or distress. This includes words or behaviour directly or indirectly communicated to the victim. For example, this covers workplace bullying (including sexual harassment) where comments and behaviours can be made directly to a victim or within their earshot but intended for the victim to be able to hear.
- Use of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, words or communication which is likely to cause the victim harassment, alarm or distress when seen, heard or otherwise perceived. For example, posting threatening, abusive or insulting comments (with or without photos taken without the victim’s consent) on a widely accessible social media website about the victim, even though such comments are not directly communicated to the victim, and the victim later discovers these comments through a third-party.
- Use of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour with the intent of:
- Causing the victim to believe that they will be the subject of violence; or
- Provoking violence from the victim. The behaviour, words or communication must also be likely to cause this belief or provoke this reaction.
- Stalking behaviour
- Any indecent, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, words or communication to a public servant or public service worker in relation to the execution of their duties.
What You Must Prove to Get a Protection Order
You must prove 2 things:
- That any of the 5 types of acts has been committed against the victim by the respondent; and
- That the same act is likely to continue or that any of the 5 types of acts are likely to occur (for example, an escalation of behaviour).
All circumstances will be considered and the Court will ensure that the decision to make the Order is just and equitable in all the circumstances.
What Can the Protection Order Include?
As a victim making an application, it is very useful to make a note of what type of Orders you wish to seek. The Order can provide for a wide variety of conditions including:
- Conditions that prohibit the respondent in doing anything to the victim.
- A condition to cease publishing the relevant communication.
- It may also require the respondent and victim to attend counselling or mediation.
- Any directions necessary for the Order to be carried out.
What Happens If the Person Subject to the Protection Order Contravenes a Condition?
The contravention must be reported to the police. It is then dealt with by the Police and/or the Court where the person may be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed.