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, and can deal with the following:
- That someone should not commit any act of domestic abuse.
- That someone should pay you rent, mortgage, or other monies, such as child support.
- That someone should hand over firearms or dangerous weapons to the police.
If you feel that you need to protect yourself by applying for a protection order, you must apply at a court which has jurisdiction over the area where you are residing. It is also important to first phone a court and make sure on which days you can apply for a protection order, since many courts only have certain days on which they deal with the application for protection orders, unless the protection order is a matter of urgency and you feel that your life might be at risk.
Before obtaining a final protection order, you need to apply for an interim protection order. To do this, you need to apply to the court. The interim order specifies the date on which the final order will be considered. Once the final order is made, it is permanent and can only be changed by making an application to do so at the court at which it was granted. Once an interim order is granted a copy of the order must be served on the Defendant by either the police or a sheriff of the court. The Defendant then has the opportunity to defend the matter on the return date and the Magistrate has the discretion to either make it a final protection order or not.
Requesting a protection order does not mean that you are laying a charge against your abuser. You do not need to lay a criminal charge in order to obtain a protection order. However, if you are a victim of a type of domestic abuse that is also a crime, you can apply for a protection order, lay a criminal charge, or both. Some examples of abuse that are also crimes include common assault, rape, incest, attempted murder and the abuse of animals.
If your abuser breaches or breaks the conditions of the protective order, he has committed a crime, being in contempt of court. This applies even if the breach is not an actual crime, such as controlling behaviour. If the breach itself involves a crime, such as assault, then the abuser can be charged with both contempt of court and assault. If your abuser, or the person that you have the protection order against, breaches the terms of the order you should phone the police as a matter of urgency. The police will then proceed to arrest him/her.
It is important to take note that as soon as a Magistrate grants an interim protection order, the docket number will be placed in your identity document to ensure that the police are aware of this, if matters turn for the worse. It is also important that you go back to court on the return date, because if you don’t, the Magistrate will remove the interim order and the matter will be struck off the roll.
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.