- Landmark Bill provides new legal protections for victims of domestic violence.
Today (Friday, 15th December), the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D., introduced the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 into the Dáil for Second Stage debate.
Minister Flanagan stated: “The Domestic Violence Bill 2017 is a very important piece of legislation that I am pleased to be introducing to the House today.
The purpose of this Bill is to consolidate and reform the law on domestic violence to provide better protection for victims. The Bill also includes provisions to enable Ireland to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention.
The Bill is part of a larger package of measures aimed at dealing with the scourge of domestic violence in our community.
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 Government is running a 6-year national awareness campaign called “What would you do?” which aims to bring about a change in long-established societal behaviours and attitudes to domestic and sexual violence.
In developing the Domestic Violence Bill, my Department and my colleague Minister Stanton have engaged closely with groups who support victims of domestic violence. I would like to acknowledge the work being done by these organisations. The support and assistance that they offer to victims is hugely valuable to people who find themselves in extremely vulnerable situations.”
The main improvements to the law contained in the Domestic Violence Bill are as follows:
- There will be an extensive but non-exhaustive list of factors that courts must consider when dealing with applications for domestic violence orders.
- Safety orders will be available to persons who are in intimate and committed relationships but who are not cohabiting.
- Victims of domestic violence will be able to apply for an emergency barring order lasting for 8 working days, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm. Emergency barring orders may be granted even if the victim has no legal or beneficial interest in the property or has an interest which is less than the perpetrator’s.
- The Bill will provide protection against cross-examination conducted in person.
- Courts will be required to give reasons for decisions relating to applications for orders under the Bill.
- It will be possible for victims to give evidence by live television link both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders.
- 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.
- Children will have the opportunity to make their views known to the court where an order is sought on behalf of a child. The court will have the option of appointing an expert to assist the court to ascertain the views of the child.
- The Courts Service will have an obligation to offer victims information on domestic violence support services.
- 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.
- Restrictions will be put in place on media reporting and attendance by the general public at criminal court proceedings for breaches of civil domestic violence orders.
- The Bill will provide for a new criminal offence of forced marriage.
- The Bill will provide for a new criminal offence of coercive control. This is psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day activities.
- Where a violent or sexual offence is committed by a person against his or her spouse, civil partner or person with whom he or she is in an intimate and committed relationship, that fact shall be an aggravating factor at sentencing.
- The legislative provisions that enable persons who are aged under 18 to marry will be repealed.
In conclusion, Minister Flanagan said: “I believe that this legislation will help to improve the protection of the law for victims of domestic violence, as it puts the needs of victims first and foremost, and I hope that the Bill will be enacted as early as possible.”