What is a Serious Crime Prevention Order?

A serious crime prevention order is an order that a Supreme Court or District Court in NSW can impose against a person to restrict or prevent participation in serious crime-related activity and can only be made against a person who is at least 18 years of age, and has been convicted of a serious criminal offence or involved in a serious crime related activity for which he/she has not been convicted of a serious criminal offence, and the court is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that the making of the order would protect the public pursuant to the Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Act 2016.

Domestic violence offences are displaying a ‘significant upward trend’ according to a recent report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The report reveals that in the 12 months until December 2022, there were 33,410 incidents of domestic-violence related assault.

This rises from figures of 32,125 in 2021, and 29,718 in 2018, which marks a three per cent increase per year, over the past five years.

It also details the regionalities which have experienced the greatest domestic violence spikes, with the Central Coast seeing the sharpest rise of 14.8%.

The report comes after NSW Police engaged in a new ‘high-impact’ operation over four days which sought to target the state’s most dangerous domestic violence offenders.

Operation Amarok involved officers from all Police Area Commands and Districts in NSW, as well as each region’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Offender Teams and other specialist units.

The Operation led to the arrest of 648 people, which included 164 people branded ‘NSW’s most wanted domestic violence offenders.’

It led to a total of 1153 charges being laid, involving domestic violence-related offences, as well as offences related to prohibited firearm and weapon possession, drug possession and supply which were allegedly detected during the Operation.

It also involved the service of 655 outstanding Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs), 3,890 ADVO compliance checks and 1,324 bail compliance checks.

“The NSW Police Force invests significant resources into responding to domestic and family violence; attending some 139,000 calls for assistance in 2022 – with more than 33,100 of those actual assaults and 17 domestic-related murders,” said Deputy Commissioner, Mal Lanyon.

Assistant Commissioner, Stuart Smith commented that: “police spend more time responding to and administering domestic violence matters than any other crime type.”

He noted that many of those arrested were actively trying to avoid the police and included wanted offenders on the run.

Among the arrests, were a 32-year-old man who was discovered by police during a search at a home at Barrack Heights, south of Wollongong. They located the man hiding underneath the house using a concealed trapdoor in a cupboard, whilst allegedly contravening an ADVO.

An extendable baton was also located during the search, with the man subsequently charged with contravene prohibition/restriction in ADVO, possess or use a prohibited weapon without permit and use prohibited weapon contrary to prohibition order.

The man is alleged to have a “serial background of AVO misbehaviour” with “numerous victims” as detailed by Smith.

Smith, who now acts as the head of Operation Amarok, has commented that the ‘systematic approach’ taken by the Operation is similar to approaches utilised for organised crime and counter-terrorism.

He now wants to take this further, recently announcing that police are considering using Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs) to target domestic violence offenders.

Whether such orders will be imposed and how this may occur is now the focus of the police, as they seek to shift the focus on domestic violence policing towards prevention, as well as repeat offenders.

Serious Crime Prevention Orders

SCPOs are ‘control orders’ granted by the NSW Supreme or District Court imposing conditions which seek to prevent or restrict individuals from participating in serious crime-related activities.

They have traditionally been used against persons involved in organised crime including outlaw motorcycle gangs, and terrorism.

Orders are made under the Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Act 2016 (NSW).

A court is only able to grant an order against a person if they are at least 18 years old, and it is satisfied that they have been convicted of a serious criminal offence, or have been involved in serious crime related activity, which they have not been convicted of.

If the basis of the order is that the person has been convicted of a serious criminal offence, it may be dealt with in the Supreme Court or the District Court, however where it involves serious crime related activity for which the person has not been convicted, it must be made in the Supreme Court.

The Court is required to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the making of the order would protect the public by preventing, restricting, or disrupting the person’s involvement in serious crime related activities.

A ‘serious criminal offence’ is currently defined under the Act to include offences such as:

  • Drug trafficking,
  • Money laundering,
  • Extortion,
  • Corruption,
  • Causing sexual servitude,
  • Participating in a criminal group,
  • The unauthorised supply of firearms,
  • Murder, and
  • Other violence-related offences (carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or more).

‘Serious criminal activity’ refers to anything done by the person that was at the time a serious criminal offence, whether or not they have been charged.

If they have been charged, it may be considered serious criminal activity whether or not the person was tried, tried and acquitted, or convicted (even if this conviction has been quashed or set aside).

The Act provides broad discretion to the Court in determining what conditions to impose, which may contain such provisions (prohibitions, restrictions, requirements etc.) as it considers appropriate to protect the public from serious crime related activities.

This includes imposing obligations to disclose ones residence, travel plans, employment arrangements, restrictions on whom you may associate with, and devices you can utilise.

The conditions cannot require a person to answer questions or provide information orally, including that which is subject to legal professional privilege, held in confidence or otherwise protected.

The duration of a SCPO must not exceed a period of 5 years.

Section 8 of the Act prescribes that it is an offence to contravene a SCPO, with a maximum penalty of a $33,000 fine and/or 5 years imprisonment.

The Act also provides avenues and circumstances under which an order may be appealed, or otherwise varied, or revoked.

By Poppy Morandin.

Published on 15/03/2023

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AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin