Major New Domestic Violence Bill Published

The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said it is "not acceptable that anyone in Ireland is subjected to abuse, fear and intimidation", as she launched the Domestic Violence Bill 2017.

Announcing the new Bill, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, said: "Tackling domestic violence has been a priority for me throughout my career. It is not acceptable that anyone in Ireland is subjected to abuse, fear and intimidation. Domestic violence is a pernicious evil that has devastating physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims as well as society as a whole.

"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.

"The Bill also 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 enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill will be a major step towards Ireland's ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention. 

The main improvements to the law contained in the Domestic Violence Bill are as follows: 

• Victims of domestic violence who are cohabiting with or are parents of the perpetrator will be able to apply for an emergency barring order lasting for 8 working days. A person who applies for an emergency barring order will not have to have a greater or equal property interest in the relevant property. 

• It will be possible for a court, when making a safety order or barring order, to prohibit a perpetrator of domestic violence from communicating with the victim electronically. 

• A victim will have the possibility of being accompanied to court by a person of his or her choice to provide support during the hearing.  

• It will be possible for victims to give evidence by live television link so as to avoid the risk of intimidation by the perpetrator or an associate both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders. 

• The courts will have the possibility of recommending that a perpetrator engages with services such as programmes aimed at perpetrators of domestic violence, addiction or counselling services.  

• The Courts Service will be required to provide information to victims of domestic violence about support services. 

• Children will have the opportunity to make their views known to the court where an order is sought on behalf of a child or relates in part to a child. The court will have the option of appointing an expert to assist the court to ascertain the views of the child. 

• There will be restrictions on the categories of person allowed to be in the courtroom during civil and criminal proceedings relating to domestic violence orders. 

• The anonymity of the victim, dependants and the perpetrator will be protected in criminal proceedings for breaches of orders, other than where the victim requests otherwise and the court so permits. However, the media will be able to report on these proceedings, provided that they respect the obligations concerning anonymity. 

• The Bill will provide for a new criminal offence of forced marriage. 

• The exemptions which enable persons under the age of 18 to marry will be repealed.  

• Existing provisions on domestic violence will be brought together in one piece of legislation to make the legislation easier to use. 

The enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill is a key part of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021. As part of this strategy, the Tánaiste recently launched a new national awareness campaign "What would you do?". This campaign aims to bring about a change in long-established societal behaviours and attitudes to domestic and sexual violence and to activate bystanders with the aim of decreasing and preventing this violence.  

The Tánaiste concluded: "This Bill will help in tackling the horror of domestic violence and I intend that it will be enacted as early as possible."


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