There are people who suffer emotional and physical abuse on a daily basis but are not quite sure what they can do to prevent it. There are two options available to them. They can either apply for a protection order or apply for a harassment order. However, many people do not know the difference between the two and which order would suit their situation.
What is a protection order?
A protection order is described as being a form of court order that requires a party to do or to refrain from doing certain acts. These orders flow from the court’s injunction power to grant equitable remedies in these situations. The following is required to be present when applying for a protection order:
- Need to show a pattern of abuse.
- It has to be a form of domestic violence, which includes:
- Physical violence
- Sexual violence
- Financial violence
- Emotional/verbal violence
The violence needs to be directed at the person who wants to make the application.
A protection order forms part of the Domestic Violence Act. This means that the abuse needs to be between persons that live in the same house, like brother and sister, or mother and father, etc. An application is made for a protection order and thereafter a return date is set. At the return date the applicant can change their mind and ask that the order be removed. If not, the order is granted, and it is binding for life. If the respondent breaches the protection order, he/she may receive up to five years’ imprisonment. If the applicant applies for a protection order under false pretences the applicant may receive up to two years’ imprisonment.
The application for a protection order is an ex-parte application, which means that the application can be made without having the respondent at court. This can cause problems in the instance where the respondent is innocent, but does not have a chance to defend himself/herself.
What is a harassment order?
If you’ve been the victim of abusive or threatening behaviour by someone other than a person living with you, or with whom you have a domestic relationship, it may be harassment. There are different things you can do if you’re being harassed, such as applying for a harassment order. The following is important to know about harassment orders:
a) No pattern is needed, and a first offence can be sufficient for a Harassment Order.
b) No relationship is required, and it can be against someone you don’t even know.
c) No violence is required.
d) Harassment includes: following, messaging, unwanted packages, letters, psychological harm, physical harm, financial harm, etc.
If you decide to apply for a harassment order without knowing who it is against, the court has the power to order a police official to investigate the matter. The application for a harassment order takes place in open court, which means that it is not private. This can sometimes prevent victims from making the application. Once a harassment order is granted, it is binding for five years. If the applicant wants to withdraw the order, the court must be satisfied that the conditions have changed. Breach of a harassment order can result in five years’ imprisonment, which is the same punishment for applicants who make the application under false pretences.
It is important to know that there are remedies available to victims who are in abusive relationships. Whether it is emotional, physical or financial abuse by someone you know or stalking and harassment by someone you don’t know.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.