Article published in The Telegraph, written by Lachlan Leeming.

Domestic violence advocacy groups say the courts need to come down harder on people who breach AVOs, as the latest figures show breaches of the orders have increased by 40 per cent over the last four years.

Breaches of apprehended domestic violence orders – which are specifically meant to protect individuals from violence, threats and harassment from anyone they are in a domestic or family relationship with – jumped to 21,342 in 2022.

That’s up from 15,155 in 2018, with the number of breaches steadily increasing each year, according to the most recent figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

Karen Levin, founder and director of charity The Equanimity Project which supports women escaping domestic abuse, said the court system had to get tougher on enforcing the orders.

“Police are trying to do the best they can,” she said. “The court system needs to deliver a harder hammer so these guys know this is serious.

“Once it gets to the court and it’s out of police hands, it (the AVO) is just a piece of paper.”

Last year, 21-year-old Mackenzie Anderson was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner in Newcastle after she had an AVO taken out against him. The ex-partner remains before the courts.

In 2017, Sarah Brown, 34, was murdered by her estranged boyfriend while there was an AVO in place prohibiting him from approaching her. He pleaded guilty and was jailed.

Victims of crime advocate Howard Brown said AVOs “weren’t worth the paper they were written on” 12 months ago, but said enforcement had stepped up since then. He said police operations such as Operation Amarok II – which earlier this year resulted in 644 arrests in four days after police zeroed-in on domestic violence offenders – was one of the reasons a jump in breaches was recorded. He echoed Ms Levin’s calls for increased specialist services in the court system for instances of domestic violence.

Full Stop Australia acting chief executive Tara Hunter, whose organisation provides support to domestic violence victims, said the figures highlighted the need for increased support for people going through the court system.

“Regardless of whether (the increase is) because of the work the police are actively doing, we need sustained engagement around a whole-of-system approach,” she said.

A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley said the state government “will continue to examine ways to improve the ADVO system to improve victim safety”.

A NSW Police spokesman said the increase in breaches was “of an increase in reporting breaches by victims and a zero tolerance by police”.