Reformed Domestic Violence Bill 2017

Tara McHugh

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Frances Fitzgerald, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, published the Domestic Violence Bill 2017, last February. The new Domestic Violence Bill improves the protections available to domestic violence sufferers, whilst also ensuring that Ireland is closer to ratifying the Istanbul Convention Action Plan.

Frances Fitzgerald, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality. Photo Credit - Department of Children & Youth Affairs (Flickr)
Frances Fitzgerald, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality. Photo Credit – Department of Children & Youth Affairs (Flickr)

“It is not acceptable that anyone in 21st century Ireland is subjected to abuse, fear and intimidation,” said Frances Fitzgerald. The Domestic Violence Bill 2017 “aims to make the court process easier for victims of domestic violence. A victim will have the right to be accompanied to court by a family member, friend or support worker. A victim will be able to give evidence by live television link. There will be restrictions on attendance at both civil and criminal court proceedings and protections for the victim’s anonymity.”  

The introduction of the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 was eagerly anticipated following the SAFE Ireland’s report, “The state we are in 2016, towards a safe Ireland for women and children.” The annual statistics outlined in SAFE Ireland’s report, highlight that over 12,500 Irish people every year received support and/or accommodation from a domestic violence service.

Domestic violence services throughout Ireland answered 48,888 calls, according to the report. However, 79% of women did not report a serious domestic violence or sexual adult incident to relevant authorities. Thus, domestic violence helplines are only helping 1 in 5 women who suffer domestic violence.

The introduction of the Domestic Violence Bill in February supports the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. The law as stated in the Domestic Violence Bill includes a number of improvements for Irish survivors of domestic violence;

  • Victims of domestic abuse who cohabiting with or  are the parent of the abuser can apply for an emergency barring order.
  • When making a safety or barring order, the court can prohibit the domestic violence perpetrator from contacting their victim electronically.
  • Victims will be able to give evidence to the court room via live television link, ensuring the perpetrator will not intimidate the victim.
  • Court services must provide victims of domestic violence with information on available support services.
  • Restrictions will be in place regarding the people allowed into the court room during civil and criminal proceedings of domestic violence cases.
  • Forced marriage is a criminal offence under the new Bill.

Speaking at the launch of the Bill, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said “The Bill will particularly improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence, most critically for cohabitants and parents in crisis situations, by introducing a new emergency barring order which can last for up to 8 working days.” “I also intend to bring forward amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage to extend access to safety and protection orders to those in intimate and committed relationships, who are not cohabiting.”

Further information and support for domestic violence sufferers can be found here.

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Tara McHugh