Legal service for defendants in Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) proceedings: an evaluation

Crime Violence Family violence Courts Legal services Australia New South Wales
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Aims: To determine: 1) whether providing legal advice to defendants in Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) proceedings reduces the frequency with which ADVOs are breached; 2) what defendants and stakeholders think about the pilot legal advice service provided to defendants by Legal Aid NSW.

Methods: The effect of the ADVO on proscribed behaviours was compared before and after the introduction of the intervention (i.e. provision of a Legal Aid duty service to defendants in ADVO proceedings) to see whether the intervention resulted in a larger reduction in proscribed behaviours. Interviews were conducted with defendants who received legal advice and key stakeholders involved in the provision of the pilot service to ascertain their perceptions of the service.

Results: The size of the reduction in proscribed behaviours did not differ significantly before and after the introduction of the legal aid service. Most of the 29 defendants interviewed said they understood the ADVO conditions as explained to them by their solicitor and the serious consequences that would result from breaching the ADVO conditions. Most would also recommend the legal service. Almost all of the 20 stakeholders interviewed believed there was a need for a legal service targeting defendants in ADVO matters and that the service was effective and valuable.

Conclusions: Providing legal advice and representation to ADVO defendants does not result in fewer breaches of ADVOs, but defendants receiving legal advice and those associated with its provision were strongly supportive of the service. Stakeholders reported that the new legal service had a beneficial effect on court processes.

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