“Domestic violence persists as true horror in too many homes in 21st Century Ireland” - Minister Fitzgerald
· Reformed and consolidated Domestic Violence Bill delivers on Programme for Government commitment
· New bill will improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence, making it much easier for victims to obtain interim barring orders.
· Reforms will bring Ireland a step closer to ratifying the Istanbul Convention
24 July 2015
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, has today published the heads and general scheme of the new Domestic Violence Bill. The general scheme has been approved by Government. The preparation of reformed and consolidated legislation on domestic violence delivers on a Programme for Government commitment.
The Minister said: “Domestic violence persists as true horror in too many homes in 21st Century Ireland. In addition, too many incidents of domestic violence still go unreported. Too many victims are afraid to come forward.
“I hope my new Domestic Violence Bill will help in tackling this horror head-on and giving fresh hope to victims that they are not alone.
“Protecting and supporting victims has been a key priority for me as Minister for Justice. This new legislation to protect and support victims of domestic violence builds on the broader Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill, which I announced last week.
“This new bill will particularly improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence, most critically for those victims in crisis situations, making it much easier for them to obtain interim barring orders. The Bill will remove the requirement that a person must have at least an equal interest in a property to apply for an interim barring order (for 8 working days) in an emergency or crisis situation.”
The Minister added: “This new bill will also make the courts process easier for victims of domestic violence.
“The reforms proposed will help a victim through the court process. A victim will have the right to be accompanied to court by a family member or friend. A victim or a witness will be able to give evidence by televisual link so as to reduce the risk of intimidation. There will be limits on those entitled to attend the court proceedings so as to make it easier for a victim to give evidence and so as to reduce the risk of intimidation. The victim’s anonymity will be protected except where the victim chooses otherwise.”
The principal improvements proposed in the Bill are as follows:
· Access to an interim barring order for 8 working days in an emergency or crisis situation will be extended. The person will no longer have to have a greater or equal property interest in the property from which the perpetrator is being barred.
· A victim will be able to bring a friend, family member or support worker into court to support her or him during proceedings.
· It will be possible for a victim to give evidence by televisual link to avoid the risk of intimidation by the perpetrator or an associate.
· The court will be able to appoint an expert to ascertain the views of a child where an order is sought on behalf of, or will partly relate to, the child.
· There will be restrictions on the categories of person allowed to be in court during these proceedings, so that the victim will not have to give evidence, potentially of a distressing nature, before a large number of strangers.
· The Courts Service will be required to give information to the victim on referrals to support services.
· The anonymity of the victim, dependants and of the perpetrator will be protected in criminal proceedings for breaches of orders, other than where the victim chooses not to be anonymous. This provision is intended to protect the privacy of a victim. However, the media will be able to report on these proceedings, providing that they respect the obligations concerning anonymity.
· It will be possible to bar a perpetrator from communicating with the victim electronically.
· Provisions on domestic violence will be brought together in one piece of legislation to make the legislation easier to use.
The Minister added that the enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill will also represent a major step forward on the road to Ireland’s ratification of the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention. The Minister intends to seek Government approval for Ireland to sign the Istanbul Convention in the Autumn.
The Minister concluded: “It is in the interests of victims that we get this legislation drafted and enacted as soon as possible.”
Note to editors: The General Scheme of a reformed and consolidated Domestic Violence Bill was approved by Government on 14 July. It incorporates the provisions outlined above and consolidates the provisions contained in the Domestic Violence Act 1996, the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2002, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.
The General Scheme is being referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny and to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting of the Bill and can be viewed at the this link.