Police safety orders: Immediate, short-term protection against family violence
Overview of PSOs
As well as protection orders made by the Family Court, the family violence laws also allow the police to give you immediate, short-term protection if you’re at risk, by making a police safety order (PSO). The police can issue a PSO “on the spot”, without having to involve the courts.
The person the PSO is made against must immediately leave your home and stay away from you, for up to 10 days (the order will say how many days).
If the other person disobeys the police safety order, by coming back to home for example, or coming to your work the next day, the police can arrest them. It’s not a criminal offence if they disobey the order, but the police can bring them in front of a District Court judge, who can make a new PSO or make a temporary protection order.
Note: Over 15,000 police safety orders were issued in 2017.
When can the police make a police safety order?
There are three requirements before a PSO can be made:
- Family relationship – You and the other person must be in, or have been in, a family relationship (for what this means, see “Protections against family violence: An overview / Types of relationships covered by the family violence laws” in this chapter).
- Risk of violence – The police must believe there’s a risk to you of family violence and that the order is needed to keep you safe.
- OK from police sergeant – A PSO has to be made or authorised by a police sergeant, not just by any police officer.
The police don’t need agreement (consent) from you, the person at risk, to make the order.
When the police make a PSO against someone, they can hold them for up to two hours (which can be at a police station) to give the police enough time to get authorisation from a sergeant and make the order and then to officially give it to the person (called “serving” the order on them).
What effect does a police safety order have?
When the police make a police safety order to protect you, this puts the following restrictions on the person who has been violent:
- They must leave the house or flat – The other person has to immediately leave, even if they own the place or normally live there (so if the two of you are a couple and you both own or are renting the family home together, the other person still has to leave)
- Lasts for set time, up to 10 days – The PSO will state how long it is to last for. It can be up to 10 days.
- No violence, no contact – The other person must not assault, threaten, intimidate or harass you or encourage anyone else to do that. They must not follow, stop or contact you in any way, in any place, either at home, at your work or anywhere else you visit often. They also have to surrender all firearms and their firearms licence to the police for as long as the order is in force.
- No rights to day-to-day care or contact – The Police Safety Order also covers your children and any other children living with you. If the other person is allowed to have care of or contact with the child under a parenting order or agreement, those rights are suspended while the PSO is in force.
What happens if the other person disobeys the police safety order?
If a Police Safety Order has been made to protect you but the other person breaches the order (by, for example, coming back home), the police can take them into police custody, or make a formal arrest if they have an arrest warrant from a judge. They then have to bring the person in front of the District Court, as soon as possible if there was an arrest warrant, or within 24 hours otherwise.
The District Court judge can then do one of the following:
- release – let the person go without making any more orders, or
- another PSO – order the police to issue another police safety order to protect you, which will then continue for the number of days set by the judge, up to 10 days, or
- protection order – make a temporary protection order, but only if you don’t object to this. (If a judge isn’t available and there’s only a Justice of the Peace or Community Magistrate, they can put the case off until a District Court judge can hear it and decide whether to make a temporary protection order). A protection order then has the same effect as if it had been made by a Family Court judge: see “What a protection order does” in this chapter.
The judge can make a temporary protection order in these cases without the need for any application from you, the person at risk.
If the other person committed any other crimes when they breached the Police Safety Order – for example if they came home and assaulted you or smashed things – the police can investigate this and lay criminal charges if there’s enough evidence.