Many people have heard of the term “Personal Protection Order”. However, few know what exactly a Personal Protection Order (PPO) entails, and how to obtain one. Nonetheless, there were 2,811 fresh PPO applications in Singapore in 2016, and 2,885 in 2015. Read on to find out more about what a PPO is, and how to apply for one.
What is a PPO?
A PPO is an order restraining someone from using violence against a family member. This is known as “family violence”, and includes:
- Willfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, a family member in hurt or fear
- Causing hurt to a family member by an act which is known or ought to be known would result in hurt
- Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against their will
- Causing continual harassment with the intention to cause anguish, or knowing that it is likely to cause anguish to a family member
PPOs are provided for in the Women’s Charter. In terms of the exact contents of the order, it is up to court to make any orders it thinks fit in the circumstances of each case. In addition to restraining the person from directly inflicting violence, the order may include an order that the perpetrator must not incite or assist any other person to commit violence against the protected person.
Another order that may be made under a PPO application is the Domestic Exclusion Order (DOE). This order grants the protected person the right of exclusive occupation of a shared residence by excluding the perpetrator from the residence. This order may be made even if the residence is solely owned by the perpetrator, or jointly owned between the perpetrator and the protected person, or between the perpetrator and someone else. This order applies both to freehold and leasehold properties. However, this order only relates to occupation – it does not affect the title or ownership of the property.
Under a PPO, the court may also refer those involved to counselling services. This may include the perpetrator, the protected person, and their children.
When does the court grant a personal protection order?
Under Section 65(1) of the Women’s Charter:
- The court may, upon satisfaction on a balance of probabilities that family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed against a family member and that it is necessary for the protection of the family member, make a protection order restraining the person against whom the order is made from using family violence against the family member.
- The court applies a civil standard of proof (balance of probabilities i.e. it is more likely than not to have occurred unlike beyond the reasonable truth in criminal matters) to determine whether a personal protection should be issued. There is no conviction, fine or criminal record from the order.
- In situations where the parties maintain their antagonistic positions and the court finds that the parties will not change or there is no indication of change, or where the court is of the view that the incident may occur again in the near future or there is an opportunity to cause fear or hurt, the court will grant a personal protection order for the victim.
What is an expedited PPO?
An expedited PPO is a temporary PPO that is granted even before the PPO application is heard in court. The court may grant an expedited PPO where it is satisfied that there is imminent danger of family violence being committed against the applicant. This is to cater for cases where a PPO is urgently required.
There are two possible durations that an expedited PPO may last:
- 28 days after the expedited PPO is granted; or
- The date the PPO application is heard
However, the court may also extend the duration of the expedited PPO if necessary.
What are the consequences of breaching a PPO?
Breaching a PPO or an Expedited Order (EO) is an offence. Wilful contravention of a personal protection order or EO is a serious offence and the court may impose a custodial sentence where necessary. The public policy ensures that vulnerable members of the family, such as the wife and children, must be protected from violence.
The first time a perpetrator is convicted of breaching a PPO, they may face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 6 months’ imprisonment. For subsequent convictions, they may be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. The court may also subsequently make other orders or vary the existing PPO.
If the court has granted you a PPO that has been breached, you should immediately report the breach to the police. It is a seizable offence i.e. the police officer may arrest without a warrant. The police will investigate, and decide whether to charge the offender for a breach of the PPO.
How do I get a PPO?
Step 1: Applying for a PPO
You may fill out an application for a PPO at several places:
- In person, at the Family Justice Court
- Online, via the Integrated Family Application Management System (iFAMS), an online application system managed by the Court
- Through video-link, at Family Violence Specialist Centers (FVSC), which are
- Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe)
- Care Corner Project StART
Step 2: Court issues summons
Once the PPO application is in order, the court will issue summons to the perpetrator, instructing the perpetrator to attend court for the mention and hearing of the application. The applicant is required to pay a fee for the issuance of summons. An expedited PPO may be issued at this point if necessary.
Step 3: Court mention
The court mention is where the perpetrator states whether or not they admit to using violence, or whether they consent to the issue of a PPO. If the perpetrator admits violence or agrees to the issuance of the PPO, a PPO will be granted. Otherwise, the application will go to trial.
Step 4: Trial
At trial, the application will be heard by a Magistrate or District Judge. This usually occurs within 3 weeks after both parties have submitted the relevant documents. Trials usually take a few hours, lasting up to a day or longer if necessary.
At trial, the court will decide whether to grant a PPO. For the applicant to succeed in getting a PPO, the court must be satisfied with two things, on a balance of probabilities:
- Family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed against a family member; and
- A PPO is necessary for the protection of the family member
To prove on a balance of probabilities means that the court must be persuaded that it is more likely than not that such is the case. To prove this, it may be helpful for the applicant to produce medical reports, police reports, or photographs relating to the family violence.
Strictly speaking, there is no need for you to be represented by a lawyer before you can apply for a PPO. The applicants are required to file a complaint which is the first step to invoke the jurisdiction of the court. It may be helpful to have legal representation, as the written complaint must identify the parties involved in the alleged incident and must contain a proper description of the alleged abuse or assault by the perpetrator or how he or she was involved in the incident, especially if the application goes to trial.
Who can apply for a PPO?
Anyone in Singapore may potentially apply for a PPO. This includes:
- Singapore citizens
- All persons in Singapore
- All persons domiciled in Singapore
There are 3 possible categories of people who may qualify for a PPO:
- A family member who is the subject of family violence, who is at least 21 years old and is not incapacitated
- A guardian, relative, or person responsible for the care of a family member who is the subject of family violence
- Anyone appointed by the Minister if the relevant family member is under 21 years old or incapacitated
Family members include:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Biological children
- Adopted children
- Brothers and sisters
- Any other relatives that the court thinks should be regarded as a “family member”
Frequently asked questions
Question 1: Does the PPO under the Women’s Charter apply to me if I am a man?
Yes, the PPO under the Women’s Charter applies to men and women.
Question 2: Does the PPO under the Women’s Charter apply to me if I am a Muslim?
Yes, you are able to apply for PPO even if you are a Muslim.
Question 3: How long will the PPO last for after it has been granted?
The PPO lasts until it is rescinded by either party. The court will also fix a date for review if the order is made for parties to attend counselling. The court may also make such exceptions or conditions as may be specified in the order and for such term as may be specified in the order.
Question 4: Usually, how long does the application for a PPO take?
If the other party consents to the application for PPO, it will take a month or two to complete. If the matter goes for trial, it may take 3 to 5 months.
Question 5: Can I apply for a PPO for both myself and my children?
Yes, you are able to apply for a PPO for both yourself and your children.
Question 6: I have a personal protection order for my 6 year old son against his father, will this help me to obtain sole custody with no order for access by the father?
Sole custody is not a norm unless the father is abusive and seeing the father is detrimental to the child’s interests. It is important to understand that the children should not be considered as property belonging to one parent to the exclusion of the other parent. Personal Protection order protects the child from the father in the event the father behaves violently towards the child. This does not mean that the father will lose his access rights to the child. The father continues to have rights to the child and is able to see the child.
Question 7: My husband comes home late every night drunk for the past two months. He will go around the flat banging the doors and furniture causing a lot of nuisance and disturbance to the children and myself. He will also hurl vulgar words at me by standing outside the bedroom door and will bang the door loudly, what can I do?
You may file for a personal protection order. His behaviour may also constitute harassment. You may want to lodge a police report.
Question 8: My wife and I have a personal protection order against each other. Are we allowed to live together?
Personal Protection Order does not forbid or prohibit the couples from living together unless either party is of the view that it is dangerous living together as most likely there may another incident of violence.
Question 9: I have a personal protection order against my husband by consent, am I able to rely on this to prove my husband’s unreasonable behaviour against me in the divorce proceedings?
Yes, you are able to rely on the personal protection order in the divorce proceedings to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that your husband has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live together with your husband.
Question 10: My wife and I have filed for personal protection order applications in court. We do not wish to continue with the applications as our children are affected by whatever happened in the family. What can we do?
You and your wife may inform the Judge at the mention court at the next hearing date that you and your wife have decided to withdraw your applications. The consequences of withdrawing your application are that you and your wife will not be able to file another application against each other based on the same facts.
Question 11: I filed for a personal protection order against my husband as he hit me recently. He apologized to me and requested me not to proceed with the application and promised that he will not hit me again or behave violently or exhibit aggressive behaviour towards me. What can I do?
You may ask your husband to give a written undertaking not to commit any act of violence towards you in the future. Thereafter, you may inform the court of the undertaking and withdraw your application. Alternatively, your husband may give an oral undertaking in the court not to commit any act of violence against you and apologise to you in the open court, which will be on court records.
Question 12: I have a personal protection order against my husband as he has severe mood swings and will behave violently. Both of us attended counselling together and he also attended anger management therapy. There is a significant improvement in my husband’s behaviour. I wish to live together with my husband and do not intend to have the personal protection order anymore, what can I do?
You may inform the court and apply to rescind the personal protection order against your husband.
Question 13: My ex-husband has posted denigrating comments about me on the facebook and has also created a website showing my photograph and hand phone number, which describes me as “single woman” dating website. I am emotionally distressed and embarrassed. I changed my hand phone number as I received SMS messages every day from customers. What can I do?
You must lodge a police report as the website contains illegal contents and the webpage must be taken down immediately. Do lodge a complaint with the web hosting provider. You may also file for a personal protection order for harassment.
Question 14: During an argument with my wife recently I slapped her on the cheek as she made some bad comments about my mother. I have never hit her before. Do you think my wife will succeed in her personal protection order application?
Personal protection orders are not punitive in nature. It is not given to punish anyone for past violence but only to restrain the person from committing any act of violence in the future. Iif your wife proves that there is a likelihood of you committing any act of violence in future, she will succeed. If you are able to prove that it is only one-off act that happened due to provocation (quite common in marriage) and that you are not a violent person, the court may not grant your wife a personal protection order.
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