Victims of family and domestic violence can now apply for restraining orders online under new laws introduced by the McGowan Labor Government to protect victims and survivors of such violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The change is one of a raft of legislative reforms to help protect victims at a time of increased risk because of isolation from the community. New laws were enacted recently that created a separate offence for breaching of a family violence restraining order, and increased the penalty from $6,000 to $10,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
People seeking the protection of restraining orders have previously been required to visit a court registry to apply. Now it can be done online through registered legal services which provide family violence assistance.
These include Legal Aid WA, Aboriginal Family Law Services and community legal centres.
Anybody can contact these agencies by phone, or in person, and be assisted with the lodgement of their restraining order application. People can still go directly to a court to lodge an application.
After the application has been lodged, the applicant will be given a time to attend a court hearing to seek an interim order.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who are unable to attend court because they are immunocompromised or in quarantine can contact the Magistrates Court to make an application to the Court to request orders to appear by alternative means.
If a Magistrate grants an order and it is served on the respondent, the victim can be informed electronically, including via a text message.
Further information can be obtained from https://www.victimsofcrime.wa.gov.au or by calling the Office of the Commissioner for Victims of Crime on 9425 2973.
If you are in danger you should call the police on 000.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“This online process will help victims of violence by making it more convenient and less stressful than going to a court registry to apply for a restraining order.
“This legislation allows victims to lodge applications quickly and safely through one of the identified legal services.
“It’s a big step for WA courts and is part of our commitment to streamline court processes.”
As stated by Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk:
“There has been an urgent need for this measure because of COVID-19 restrictions keeping people at home, and the associated risks around perpetrators exploiting the situation to control and coerce victims.
“While this initiative has been brought forward to help victims through the current crisis, it will be a permanent service for applicants.
“This is part of the McGowan Government’s election commitment to make it easier and less traumatic for family and domestic violence victims to obtain restraining orders.”