Domestic Violence Orders & Surveillance

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Part 2

To read the first part of this series    Click Here

Our last blog about the dangers of hiring a PI to conduct surveillance if a Domestic (Family) Violence Order is in place, generated a lot of discussion. Previously we touched on the fact that a person against whom a protection order is made, may have legitimate reasons for needing to conduct surveillance on the aggrieved party eg. to obtain information for child support change of assessment purposes or for Family Law reasons. However, conducting surveillance, even through a licensed investigator, can present serious risk when it comes to breaching the conditions of a protection order.

Our last piece discussed the situation in relation to technology facilitated domestic violence and stalking in the eastern states. In this piece, we continue with more information, this time covering Western Australia.

Protection Orders in Western Australia

In WA Domestic Violence Orders are covered under specific legislation called the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA). A person experiencing family violence can apply for a Violence Restraining Order (VRO).

Under the Act, domestic violence has taken place if a person is
• assaulted or injured or threats to do so are made;
• kidnapped or deprived of their liberty or threats to do so are made;
• pursued for the purpose of intimidation or threats to do so are made;
• subjected to ongoing intimidating, offensive or emotionally abusive behaviour where the parties are in a family and domestic relationship; or
• damaging a person’s property where the parties are in a family and domestic relationship

It also includes having another person do any of the above acts on that person’s behalf.

While it could be argued that the WA Act does not define surveillance for legitimate purposes by an independent, licensed investigator, as an act of domestic violence, it does mention ‘intimidation’ and ‘emotional abuse’ thereby creating inherent risks if the aggrieved person becomes aware of being under surveillance and feels intimidated.
Across all states, domestic violence legislation deals with the sort of behaviour that a reasonable person would consider to be intimidating or emotionally abusive. When the decision is up to a Magistrate, the outcome would depend very much on the type of information being sought through surveillance, the duration of the surveillance and the Magistrate’s own personal opinion of what reasonably constitutes intimidation or emotional abuse.

Technology facilitated stalking and abuse in WA

Surveillance using cameras could come under the definition of technology facilitated abuse. Private Investigators assessing whether surveillance should take place, need to know whether conditions are made in the order prohibiting surveillance.

The court can impose whatever conditions it considers are necessary to prevent the respondent committing an act of abuse or from behaving in a manner that would make the person who is protected fear an act of abuse.

The Act gives the following examples of conditions that can be made to prohibit technology-facilitated domestic violence. These include, orders prohibiting the respondent from:

• being near where the person lives, works or is likely to be;
• communicating or attempting to communicate with the aggrieved person by whatever means;
• limiting a person’s use of certain property, even if the person owns that property (for example, preventing them from accessing a shared computer);
• causing or allowing another person to engage in any of the above conduct.

The applicant for the VRO can also ask the court for specific conditions to prevent the respondent seeking them out or conducting surveillance.

As in all other states, each case needs to be considered individually. But as a general rule, it pays to be honest with your investigator if a VRO is in place.

Any questions you may have about your particular matter in regards to hiring a private investigator to conduct surveillance you can call 0435 732 071 or email your inquiry to admin@cloakinvestigations.com.au