“Power is no blessing in itself, except when it is used to protect the innocent” [Johnathan Swift]

It is a sad fact, a harsh reality and all too commonplace, the incidence of domestic violence and harassment – and all too often not reported on due to ignorance, fear of reprisal or just lack of information.

What very few members of the general public know is that protection orders actually consist of two separate applications – each born from its own Act and with separate requirements. The one designed for relief within the boundaries of a domestic relationship, while the other is able to assist in cases of harassment.

It is important to understand the broad aim of each of the orders and also the application procedures that need to be followed.

Domestic Violence

As the name indicates, it is mainly aimed to victims of domestic violence and one of the main requirements is the existence of a domestic relationship.  However, it is important to know that the mere fact that a respondent might be a family member, does not automatically prove a domestic relationship.  If a final order is granted, it is life-long unless set aside by a Court thereafter.

Protection against Harassment

The ambit of this protection order is much wider than the domestic violence one and has been introduced to protect victims against acts that are otherwise not criminalised, for instance stalking. Unlike the protection order against domestic violence, this order is valid for a maximum period of 5 years.

Both these protection orders can be applied for ex parte (without the presence of the respondent) at your nearest Magistrate’s Court by completing the relevant application form.  These forms can be downloaded beforehand from the internet here and here or a copy requested from the clerk of the court.

Once the form has been completed and signed in front of and by a commissioner of oaths, the clerk will take it through to the magistrate, who in return can do one of three things:

  1. Grant an Interim Protection Order;
  2. Issue a Notice to Show Cause
  3. Dismiss the application.

In the first two instances the matter will be postponed to a date in the future in order to provide the respondent the opportunity to explain why the interim order should not be made final or why an order should not be made at all.

In the instance where an interim order is granted, the complainant will receive same from the court, which will be signed by the magistrate and will be valid until the return date specified in the documentation.

If a Notice to Show Cause is issued, it basically means that the respondent is called upon to come to court and explain why an order should not be granted against him – no order will be in place until then.

Your silence will not protect you!

Author: Mickey Theunissen