When can the court impose a Restraining Order?

Restraining Orders

"When sentencing a defendant for any offence, a court is also entitled to impose a restraining order"

When sentencing a defendant for any offence, a court is also entitled to impose a restraining order. The power to do this is contained in section 5 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The purpose of such an order is to protect the victim of the offence (or any other person) from conduct which amounts to harassment or which will cause fear of violence. The restraining order can be ordered to last for a specific amount of time or be indefinite (until further order). 


Restraining orders can also be made against defendants who are acquitted of the offence they are facing (under section 5A of the same Act).  In these circumstances, an order can only be made where the court considers it necessary to protect a person from harassment by the defendant. There must be evidence available for the judge to be able to reach this view. The order can be made for a specified period or be indefinite (until further order).

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Where a restraining order is made, the defendant can apply to the court at a later stage for the order to be lifted or varied. Similarly, the prosecution can apply to vary the order, including to extend it, if circumstances justify such an application. Any person named in the order is also entitled to apply to the court for a variation.

Breach of Restraining Order

It is a criminal offence to breach a restraining order.  As an either-way offence it can be tried in the Magistrates’ Court (where the maximum penalty upon conviction is 6 months’ imprisonment) or in the Crown Court before a jury (where the maximum penalty upon conviction is 5 years).  For more information on either-way offences and how cases are heard in the Magistrates' or Crown Courts click on Which Court will I go to?

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