Domestic Violence Bill – The Future of Victim Protection

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, announced a National Awareness Campaign on the issue of Domestic Violence on 15 September, towards which €950,000 had been allocated for 2016.

Domestic Violence can affect all strata in society. It is not confined to particular professions or job descriptions and can be sustained by young and old alike.

The existing law allows victims to apply to the District court for a barring order or safety order. It can be notoriously difficult to obtain an order and the encounter with the courts, which is typically non user friendly, can put a victim off pursuing a remedy resulting in their continuing to endure the abuse without redress.

The Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was signed by the Irish government on 5 September 2015. An action plan was drawn up resulting in the Second National Strategy on Domestic Violence Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, part of which is the Domestic Violence Bill the heads of which were published in July 2015, which attempts to reduce the difficulties encountered by women seeking protection. This Bill is included in the Programme for Government and is on the Government’s list of priority legislation for this Autumn.

The main changes proposed are as follows:

  • Extension of interim barring order beyond eight days where necessary
  • It will no longer be necessary to have a proprietorial interest equal to that of the perpetrator in order to apply to court for a barring order
  •  A perpetrator can be barred from communicating with the victim by electronic means (social media)
  • Third parties to be allowed in court to support the victim in giving evidence
  • Televisual link to be allowed where the victim fears being in the presence of the perpetrator
  • Gardai to establish a risk assessment matrix to deal with DV complaints
  • Education of the public sector and the legal profession to be prioritised in how best to deal with cases of DV.
  • Establishment of a helpline
  • There may also be provision for victims of serious injury to apply for compensation under the Criminal Compensation Acts.

Women’s Aid will run their annual 16 day awareness campaign between 25 November and 10 December 2016. Their website can be accessed at www.womensaid.ie

Other useful websites are www.courts.ie and www.safeireland.ie

If you have any queries on matters raised in this article, please contact us in confidence.