Outcome: Appeal allowed
1. The Father appealed against the District Judge’s grant of a PPO against him in favour of the two Children of the family. The PPO application was made by the Mother over alleged post-divorce incidents during the Father’s access to the Children.
2. The High Court allowed the Father’s appeal and set aside the PPO against him, as it was not found on a balance of probabilities that the Father had committed family violence. However, the court accepted that the Children were under extreme stress and anxiety due to the parents’ continuous parental conflict.
3. Under s 65(1) of the Women’s Charter, the court may grant a PPO if it is shown on a balance of probabilities that family violence was caused or is likely to be caused and there is a need to issue a protection order. It is a civil standard of proof which directs the Court, highlighting the PPO’s non-criminal nature; however, the breach of a PPO attracts criminal sanction of a fine or imprisonment, hence the court will not take the ordering of a PPO lightly: at  to  and .
4. Expressions of frustrations in high-conflict parental disputes may amount to family violence, and inference of the requisite intention or wilfulness can be drawn from all circumstances of the case – for instance, if a parent persists in his or her aggressive outbursts around the children despite being warned of their distress. Parents must be conscious of their conduct and sensitive to its effect on their children: at .
5. While the delay in applying for a PPO based on a dated incident does not reduce the incident’s importance due to possible explanations for the delay, such delay may be relevant to the question of necessity of the PPO. Whether a PPO is necessary is a fact-intensive assessment dependent on the evidence before the court in each case. The court’s jurisdiction as prescribed by statute serves as a safeguard against unnecessary intervention by the court in family matters: at .
6. A properly ordered PPO is an invaluable tool for the protection of vulnerable family members, and serves as a reminder and discourages against violent behaviour. However, it can negatively lead to entrenchment of the parental conflict situation, and reinforcement of a child’s negative perception of one parent. The potential use of a PPO to encourage more meaningful access is an irrelevant consideration: at  and .
7. Family orders should not be used as weapons in parental conflicts, and parties must have the children’s welfare as their paramount consideration when conducting themselves: at  to .The full text of the decision can be found here.
This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.