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Offences of Breaching Court Orders

What Are Court Orders?

A Court Order is a mechanism used by the Courts to administer justice.[1] The Court may impose certain orders when deciding your case. There are several types of Court Orders, which can include:

Bail Orders A Court Order enabling an accused person to be released from imprisonment whilst their case is being heard. There are specific conditions which can include reporting and conduct obligations.
Intervention Orders Intervention Orders can be ordered by the Court to protect an individual the Court considers to be at risk. For example, intervention orders can include Family Violence Orders or Personal Safety Intervention orders.[2] They involve restricting contact or behaviour of a specific person or people.
Community Corrections Orders A community corrections order can require you to do certain things instead of serving a term of imprisonment.[3] For example, the order may require you to attend certain programs, report to a community corrections centre, or impose a curfew between certain times (e.g. remaining at home between 9pm and 6am).[4]
Orders to Pay Fines The Court can order you to pay certain amounts, either in instalments or in full (but you must be allowed time to pay the fine).[5]

Note: Suspended Sentence orders have been abolished in Victoria for offences after 1 September 2014.

Do I Have to Comply with Court Orders?

Yes, you are required to comply with the conditions of your Court Order. Failing to comply with conditions of your order may be considered a ‘breach of a court order’ or in more serious cases ‘contempt of court’.[6]

In relation to Bail, Intervention Orders and Community Corrections Order, you may be charged with an offence for breaching the order.

The Court imposing the order must ensure you consent to any orders and that you understand the obligations imposed.

What Are the Penalties for Breaching a Court Order?

The penalties will vary according to the type and content of court order and the individual circumstances of your case. If the Court believes you have breached a Court Order, you may be required to appear in Court to determine new penalties for your original offence.

  • Bail Order – It is an offence to breach a condition of Bail, without a reasonable excuse. The Court may decide to cancel your Bail if the conditions are breached. If you fail to meet the conditions of your Bail, you could also face additional penalties, including being charged with an offence that has a maximum penalty of 3 months imprisonment.[7] Failing to appear in Court whilst on Bail, without reasonable excuse, is a separate offence and carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. [8]
  • Community Corrections Order – Breaching a Community Corrections Order can lead to the offence of ‘contravention of a community correction order’ and carries a maximum penalty of 3 months imprisonment. [9] The Court may decide to re-sentence you in relation to the original offences for which the order was imposed.
  • Intervention Order – Breaching an Intervention order can lead to the offence of ‘contravention of a family violence (or personal safety) intervention order’,[10] and can carry a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment or 5 years for a Persistent or Aggravated Breach.[11]
  • Order to Pay Fines – Failure to comply with an order to pay a fine can result in the court ordering a warrant for your arrest in order to appear.[12] If you do not pay your fine, it may be converted to Community Work or even a period of imprisonment.

Contempt of Court

Whilst the Court has the power to impose a ‘contempt of court’ charge, it is generally used in only the most serious cases. The Court will generally look to order penalties under for breach of a court order, as outlined above.  However, if you have been charged with Contempt of Court, the elements to be established for this offence are:[13]

  1. An order was made against you by the Court;
  2. The terms of that order were ‘clear, unambiguous and capable of compliance’;
  3. The order was served upon you;
  4. You had knowledge of such order; and
  5. You breached the terms of the Court order.[14]

There is no maximum penalty for a contempt of court offence, but penalties can include fines or a term of imprisonment.[15]

Defences for Breaching Court Orders

There are various elements that must be proven if you are accused of breaching your Court Order. For example, you are required to consent to any order impose by the Court. You can defend your charge if you did not consent to the terms or were unaware of the terms of your court order. You can also argue that you had a reasonable excuse to breach the court order. It is also a defence to argue on a factual basis that you did not breach the court order terms. Another defence is that you held an honest and reasonable belief that you did not breach the Court Order. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice if you have been charged with breaching a court order (or contempt of court) as soon as practicable to that a suitable defence can be raised for your individual circumstances.

If you have been accused of breaching court orders then contact Leanne Warren today to seek legal advice. First 30 minute consultation is free of charge: 03 9670 6066 / info@leannewarren.com.au

[1] Borrie and Lowe ‘The Law of Contempt’ (LexisNexis Butterworths, 4th ed, 2010), 3.
[2] Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic);Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic).
[3] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 37.
[4] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 45; s 48I.
[5] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 59.
[6] Legal Services Board v Forster (No 2) [2012] VSC 633, [43].
[7] Bail Act 1977 (Vic) s 30A.
[8] Bail Act 1977 (Vic) 30A.
[9] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 83AD.
[10] Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) s123; Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic).
[11] Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) s 123; s 27.
[12] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 69E.
[13] Witham v Holloway (1995) 183 CLR 525, 534.
[14] National Australia Bank v Juric [2001] VSC 375.
[15] Smith v The Queen (1991) 25 NSWLR 1, 13.

Related Articles:

Contempt of Court and Perjury
Breaching an Intervention Order

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