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The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

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  1. Minister Flanagan brings landmark Domestic Violence Act into operation
  2. Domestic Violence Act 2018 improves legal protections available to victims of domestic violence.

Minister Flanagan brings landmark Domestic Violence Act into operation

Domestic Violence Act 2018 improves legal protections available to victims of domestic violence.

Reforms bring Ireland a step closer to ratifying the Istanbul Convention

2 January 2018

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has announced the commencement of the Domestic Violence Act 2018. The Act improves the protections available to victims of domestic violence under both the civil and criminal law.

 

Minister Flanagan said: “Protecting and supporting victims has been a key priority for this Government. Domestic violence can have devastating physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims as well as society as a whole. The commencement of the Domestic Violence Act is a key part of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. It also completes a major step towards Ireland’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention. I would like to acknowledge the work being done by organisations who support victims of domestic violence, and their contribution in strengthening the provisions of the Act.”

 

One of the key new protections for victims under the criminal law introduced by the Act is the creation of a new 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.

 

Reflecting on some of the main provisions of the act, the Minister added: “For too long, domestic violence has been seen primarily as physical abuse. The new offence of coercive control recognises that the effect of non-violent control in an intimate relationship can be as harmful to victims as physical abuse because it is an abuse of the unique trust associated with an intimate relationship.Another important provision will ensure that an intimate relationship between victim and perpetrator must be regarded as an aggravating factor in sentencing for a wide range of offences.  This new provision sends a message that society will no longer tolerate the appalling breach of trust committed by one partner against the other in an intimate context.”

 

The main improvements to the law contained in the Act are:

 

  • 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 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.
  • Protection against cross-examination conducted in person of the applicant or respondent by the respondent or the applicant respectively where orders are being sought.
  • Courts will be required to give reasons for decisions relating to applications for orders under the Act.
  • 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 a civil hearing.
  • The court will be able to seek the views of children where a safety or barring 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. 
  • A new criminal offence of forced marriage. 
  • A new criminal offence of coercive control.
  • 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 relationship, that fact shall be an aggravating factor at sentencing.
  • The legislative provisions that enable persons who are aged under 18 to marry are repealed.

·         Existing provisions on domestic violence are brought together in one piece of legislation to make the legislation easier to use.

 

The commencement of the Domestic Violence Act is a key part of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021.  As part of this strategy, the national awareness campaign “What would you do?” 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 Domestic Violence Act 2018 is available at www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2018/act/6/enacted/en/html