Does providing legal advice to respondents reduce the likelihood of breaching a family violence intervention order?

Does providing legal advice to respondents reduce the likelihood of breaching a family violence intervention order?

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) provides legal advice to respondents in family violence matters, to support the individual’s right to representation and ensures fairness in the legal process.

This paper reviews the literature on the impact of providing legal advice to respondents of a family violence intervention order (FVIO), and whether providing legal advice reduces the likelihood that a respondent will breach a FVIO.

Key findings

The research indicates that there are many positive benefits, including:

  • legal advice improves the respondent’s knowledge of the conditions of a FVIO, including the criminal consequences of breaching the order.
  • a respondent with a legal representative benefits from having the conditions of their FVIO ‘tailored’ to make the order more workable.
  • respondents have an increased knowledge of their options in responding to a FVIO.
  • legal representation can assist in the courts operation of FVIO proceedings and improve the mental state of respondents and victims.

VLA’s own data shows that in a one year period (2013–14), almost 80 per cent of clients who received legal aid services when charged with breach of a FVIO, had not received legal advice from VLA prior to the breach. The literature emphasises the importance of providing legal advice, necessary to meet the needs of respondents in family violence matters. It is also believed that providing legal advice to a respondent will also benefit the victim and the community at large.

The limitations of the studies we examine are that they are based in New South Wales (so may not be applicable to the Victorian context), have small sample sizes and limited follow-up periods. Nevertheless the research firmly identifies many other flow-on benefits from being provided legal advice.  Further research on this issue is a priority for VLA.

Rear the full research brief

Does providing legal advice to respondents reduce the likelihood of breaching a family violence order? (docx, 269.35 KB)