Family Protection

Overview

This section addresses some of the commonly asked questions on proceedings against family violence in the Family Justice Courts (FJC).

The information provided below is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. The FJC cannot provide legal advice or assist with drafting the contents of any document.

An application can be made to the FJC by an applicant (a Complainant) for an order to protect himself/herself or a family member from family violence caused by another family member (a Respondent).

The legislative basis of the Courts’ power to make orders to protect members of a family from family violence caused by a Respondent and to vary or rescind such orders are set out in Part VII Protection of Family of the Women’s Charter.

What is Family Violence

Under Section 64 of the Women’s Charter, any of the following acts will amount to “Family Violence”:

  • Willfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, a family member in fear of hurt;
  • Causing hurt to a family member by an act which is known or ought to have been known will result in hurt;
  • Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against his/her will; and/or
  • Continual harassment with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause anguish to a family member.

What orders can the Court make to protect a family member from Family Violence?

The Courts can make the following orders:

  • Personal Protection Order (PPO) is an order restraining a Respondent from committing family violence against a person or persons. It is made when the Court is satisfied that family violence has been or is likely to be committed and that a protection order is necessary.
  • Expedited Order (EO) is a temporary PPO which is issued when an application for PPO is filed in cases where the Judge finds that there is imminent danger of violence being committed. Unless extended by the Court, an EO lasts for 28 days from the date it was made and ceases on the date of the hearing.
  • Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO) is an order excluding the Respondent from a residence which the parties have been living together as members of the same household. The DEO can exclude the Respondent from all, or part of this shared residence.
  • Counselling Order (CGO) is an order referring parties in a PPO application to counselling, made at the same time that a PPO is made and may include the children. Counselling is conducted at a family support agency. The agency will contact the parties directly to arrange for the counselling to take place.

A counselling review date will be fixed by the Court, usually in Family Court no. 1 in about six to nine months from the date the CGO is made. This review is for the Court to assess the progress of the counselling and may either discharge the order if favourable or order its continuation if found otherwise.

Who can file an application to be protected from Family Violence?

You can file an application to protect yourself or your children aged under 21 from family violence if:

  • You are above 21 years of age.
  • You are under 21 years of age but are married or have been married.

If you are an incapacitated person, then the application to protect you must be made by your guardian, relative or person responsible for your care.

Who can a PPO protect me from?

You can be protected from family violence against a family member who is related to you in any of the following manners:

  • Spouse or ex-spouse;
  • Child, including an adopted child or stepchild;
  • Parent;
  • Parent-In-law;
  • Sibling; and
  • Any other relative who the Court may regard as a member of your family.

How do I make an application?

This section sets out the procedure for filing an application against Family Violence.


What happens after I make the application?

After the application is made, the matter will be progressed through the court system. It can potentially be settled with the consent of both parties, or resolved by a final hearing in the Court.


What happens if either party is absent from Court?

If any party fails to turn up for their Court dates e.g. a mentions date, trial date, date for counselling session:

  • An absent Complainant (the applicant) will have his/her application struck out.
  • An absent Respondent (the person whom the application is filed against) will have a warrant of arrest issued against him/her.

What if I am not satisfied with the Court’s Order?

If you are not satisfied with the order, you may appeal to a Judge of the High Court.

If you wish to appeal, you must do so by filing a Notice of Appeal in the High Court Family Division (level 3) c/o Family Justice Courts.

The Notice must be filed and served within 14 days of the order. You must also provide security for the other party’s costs of the appeal in the sum of:

  • $2,000.00, if you are appealing against a Magistrate’s order, or
  • $3,000.00, if you are appealing against a District Judge’s order.

Please note that Officers of the Court cannot help you to file your appeal papers. If you need assistance in such matters, you may wish to approach the Community Justice Centre, Community Legal Clinic or the Legal Aid Bureau.

What if I am afraid to see the Respondent in Court?

You may wish to have your family member or friend accompany you to the Court. If no one is able to accompany you, you may discuss with the Court Family Specialists at the FPC regarding alternative arrangements, such as attending the Court Mentions at a video-link agency. Please note that this option is not available during a Court trial.

What happens if the Respondent does not obey a Protection Order(s)?

If there is breach of a PPO, EO or DEO, you should report the matter to the police immediately.

The police will then decide whether to investigate the matter, and whether to charge the respondent for a breach of the order. This will be done in the Criminal Justice Division at the State Courts.

Alternatively, you can file a Magistrate's Complaint for breach of the order at the Crime Registry of the State Courts. If the Magistrate is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for proceeding, the Court may direct the police to investigate the matter.

Under section 65(8) of the Women's Charter, a breach of an expedited order or personal protection order is a criminal offence. The offence is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000.00, or by imprisonment of up to six months, or both. A second or subsequent offence is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.00, or by imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. Where the order relates to a vulnerable adult as defined by the Vulnerable Adult’s Act 2018, there is an enhanced punishment of a fine up to $5,000 or by imprisonment of up to 12 months or to both and for second or subsequent offence, a fine up to $$8,000 or by imprisonment of up to 18 months or to both.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, you do not need a lawyer to make the initial application before a Magistrate at the FJC. If you need a lawyer for the Court mentions or hearing, you may engage one. To maintain impartiality, the Officers of the Court are not able to provide legal advice or recommend lawyers.

You may refer to the online directory of qualified lawyers maintained by the Ministry of Law Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA e-Services). If you need legal advice or legal assistance, you may wish to approach the Community Justice Centre, Community Legal Clinic or the Legal Aid Bureau.