Criminal law

Intervention orders – When the Defendant is an Officer

TGB's Luke Officer outlines what impact an intervention order may have when the defendant in an officer.

TGB’s Luke Officer outlines what impact an intervention order may have when the defendant in an officer.

In the wake of the Abrahimzadeh inquest there has been a proliferation of intervention orders in South Australia. If a police officer is the defendant to a police issued or court ordered intervention order the consequences may have an impact on them both personally and also professionally.

Intervention orders can take a variety of forms and can be issued in almost any relationship. You do not need to be in the typical spousal relationship to be the possible defendant to an intervention order. The far reaching arm of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009, and the definition of the term ‘relationship’, provide for situations where an intervention order can be sought against a neighbour, a former partner, a sibling or even the Barista at the local coffee shop. In other words, intervention orders can be sought against anyone.

The overarching principle for an intervention order to be issued is that some “act of abuse” has been committed – the term ‘act of abuse’ also has a broad definition. An “act of abuse” can be physical, it can be verbal, it can be a threat to do or not to do something, it can be the restriction of financial access, it can be in the form of harassment or it may result from a myriad of other actions or inactions. Not all intervention orders are police issued. Victims can seek an intervention order by private application to the Magistrates Court. If the Court is satisfied for the need of an order, orders are always first issued on an “interim” basis.

The impact on an officer:

If a police officer is the defendant to a police issued or court ordered interim intervention order that police officer will almost certainly be deemed non-operational because a compulsory term for all interim intervention orders is that the defendant cannot have access, possession or exposure to firearms or such licenses.

Even if a police officer does not have a firearms license, by virtue of the conditions of the interim intervention order, a police officer cannot carry or possess a SAPOL issued firearm. To do so would be a breach of the conditions of the interim intervention order and a criminal offence.

It was initially unclear as to whether an application could be made to the Courts to either revoke such a condition, or vary the conditions to enable the officer to use or have access to firearms for the purpose of employment whilst the order is in its interim phase.

It is however now crystal clear. A recent amendment to the Act has confirmed that the firearms conditions cannot be varied or removed from an interim intervention order. This leaves a police officer defendant with the difficult decision to either confirm the intervention order (usually with a denial of the allegations noted on the court file) or to contest the order. If a matter is contested, it usually won’t come on for trial for several months.

If the order is confirmed by the defendant, they can make an application to vary the terms of the order to remove the firearms restrictions. The Court will need to be satisfied that the police officer defendant needs access to firearms for purposes related to earning a livelihood.

Given that intervention orders can have a significant detrimental impact on the ability of an officer to continue to work, it is critical to seek early legal advice.

For further information or assistance contact your nearest TGB location