What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is legal instrument designed to limit or prevent certain types of behaviour. A restraining order is not a criminal conviction and is not recorded on your criminal record. The existence of a restraining order is not a finding of guilt or proof that the person bound has behaved in a particular way or done anything wrong. However, it is a criminal offence for the person bound by the restraining order to breach it. It is an offence that can result in imprisonment. A conviction for breaching a restraining order does appear on a criminal record.

Types of Restraining Orders

There are essentially three types of restraining orders in Western Australia. They are Violence Restraining Orders, Misconduct Restraining Orders and Police Orders.

Violence Restraining Orders (VRO)

Violence Restraining Orders are the most common type of restraining order in use. They are designed to prevent violence, threats, intimidation and abusive behaviour. A VRO is a court order and can only be granted by a judge or a magistrate.

The legal requirements for a VRO vary depending on whether the applicant (the person applying to be protected) and the respondent (the person the applicant is seeking to restrain) are in a “family or domestic relationship”. Generally speaking, the existence of a family and domestic relationship makes it easier for the applicant to be granted a VRO because it allows the magistrate to consider additional legal criteria.

A “family or domestic relationship” has a wide definition and covers much more than married couples living under the same roof.  It also covers de facto relationships, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, ex-spouses and ex-de facto partners, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, children, parents, siblings, step-siblings, housemates and so on.

Misconduct Restraining Orders (MRO)

Misconduct restraining orders are intended to prevent intimidating or offensive behaviour. They are less common than VROs.  MROs can only be made in circumstances where the parties are not in a family or domestic relationship. Instead, MROs tend to involve disputes between neighbours or work colleagues, etc.

Police Orders

Police officers have the power to make temporary restraining orders in certain circumstances. Police orders differ from the other types of restraining orders in that they can be made by a police officer instead of a magistrate or judge and without an application from the person who is to be protected.

Police Orders can only be made for a period of up to 72 hours and have to be served on the respondent within 24 hours.