Victoria Legal Aid

What the police do about family violence

The role of police in dealing with family violence, including applying intervention orders and making family violence safety notices.

Anyone can experience family violence

It happens across communities and in all kinds of relationships.

Your experience of family violence might be different to someone else’s. A family violence intervention order is one way you can get protection. 

Our My safety tool can help you understand common separation issues, plan for your safety and find support.

You can also learn more about family violence support services.

Victoria Police must respond to all reports of family violence.

You can contact the police if you or a family member needs immediate protection.

The police can act if they believe someone is in danger, even if you don't want them to.

Victoria Police takes family violence seriously. Safety comes first. This includes the safety of the police and the people who are present at the family violence incident, especially children.

How the police respond to a report of family violence

If you are in danger, the police will take immediate action to protect and support you. Call the emergency number ‘000’ and ask for the police. If you have trouble understanding or speaking English, tell the first police officer you speak to so they can get an interpreter as quickly as possible.

If it is not an emergency, call or go to your local police station. See the Victoria Police websiteExternal Link for location and contact details.

Tell the police if you think the family member who has used family violence has a gun. The police can search the family member’s house and take any guns.

The police can also refer you to support services for emotional, financial and legal support. These services can help you to find a safe place to stay if you need to leave your family home.

To help protect people against family violence, the police can also:

Issuing a family violence safety notice

The police can issue a family violence safety notice if a family member needs immediate protection. A family violence safety notice protects an adult from a family member who is using family violence and contains similar conditions to an intervention order. The notice will also let the respondent know when their next court date is, which must be within 14 days of the notice being given. The court will then consider whether is appropriate to convert the safety notice into a family violence intervention order. See family violence safety notices.

Applying for a family violence intervention order

The police can apply for a family violence intervention order at the Magistrates’ Court for a person who has experienced family violence. They may do this even if the affected family member does not want them to, because they must put the safety of the affected family member and any affected children first. The respondent will be told that this is a police decision.

If the police apply for an intervention order, they will speak to the affected family member at the court hearing to find out what they want. The affected family member will still have to go to the court hearing and may have to give evidence. The police may also have a different view to the affected family member of what should happen with the intervention order. Affected family members should ask to speak with a duty lawyer at court so that they can get legal advice. See Going to court for a family violence intervention order hearing.

If the police do not apply for you, they must still explain what action you may take if you wish to apply for an intervention order yourself. They must also refer you to a support service or make an appointment for you to see the court registrar.

Applying for an interim intervention order

An interim intervention order is a temporary order to protect a person from family violence until the intervention order application can be finalised in court.

A magistrate can make an interim intervention order if they believe an affected family member, their child (or children), or their property needs immediate protection. If a family violence safety notice has been issued by the police, it is very likely that this will be converted into an interim order at the first court date. The Court Family Violence Registrar or police will give a copy of the order to the affected family member and the respondent. See How intervention orders work.

Arresting a violent person

The police can arrest a violent person by applying to the Magistrates’ Court by phone or fax to get a warrant. The police may ask for a warrant if you need immediate protection.

What the police can do once a family violence intervention order is made

If a family violence safety notice, interim order or final order is issued, the police can make sure the protected person is safe while the respondent makes arrangements to obey the order.

For example, the police can:

  • be at the house when the respondent collects their things to make sure the protected person is safe and property is not damaged
  • search for and remove weapons.

If a respondent does not obey the conditions of a family violence safety notice, interim order or final order, the police can arrest the respondent and charge them with a criminal offence. See Breaking an intervention order.

Making a complaint about the police

If you want to complain about the way police have handled a family violence incident, take action as soon as possible after the incident. See Complaints about police.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for violence, abuse and personal safety.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 17 May 2024

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