Domestic violence still exists as a real horror in far too many Irish homes today. – Mr. Fitzgerald

The reformed and consolidated Domestic Violence Bill fulfills a promise made in the Programme for Government.

A new bill will strengthen the protections offered to domestic violence victims by making it much simpler for them to obtain interim barring orders.

Ireland will ratify the Istanbul Convention after reforms are implemented.

The Heads and General scheme of the new Domestic Violence Bill was published on July 24 by Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice and Equality. The government has given its approval to the overall plan. As promised in the Programme for Government, domestic violence legislation is being revised and consolidated. This link will take you to a page where you can view the General Scheme.

Domestic violence continues to be a real horror in far too many Irish homes in the twenty-first century, the minister declared. Furthermore, far too many instances of domestic violence continue to go unreported. Too many victims are reluctant to speak up.

“I’m hoping that my new domestic violence bill will contribute to confronting this atrocity head-on and providing victims with new hope that they are not alone.

“As Minister of Justice, protecting and assisting victims has been a top priority for me. This new legislation expands on the larger Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill that I announced last week in order to protect and assist victims of domestic violence.

“This new bill will significantly strengthen the protections offered to victims of domestic violence, especially those who are in urgent need of interim barring orders. In an emergency or crisis situation, the Bill will eliminate the requirement that a person must have at least an equal interest in a property in order to apply for an interim barring order (for 8 working days).

“This new bill will also make the court process easier for victims of domestic violence,” the minister continued.

“The suggested changes will assist a victim during the legal process. A victim will have the right to bring a friend or family member with them to court. To lessen the possibility of intimidation, a victim or a witness will be able to present their testimony via televisual link. There will be restrictions on who is allowed to attend the court proceedings in order to facilitate victim testimony and lessen the possibility of intimidation. If the victim doesn’t want their identity to be kept private, it will be protected.

The following are the main amendments suggested by the bill:

In an emergency or crisis situation, you will have access to an interim barring order for an additional eight working days. A greater or equal property interest in the property from which the offender is being barred is no longer required.

A victim will be allowed to bring a friend, relative, or support person with them to court to stand by them while proceedings are taking place.

A victim will be able to give testimony via televisual link without running the risk of being intimidated by the offender or a companion.

When an order is requested on behalf of, or will partially relate to, a child, the court will have the ability to appoint an expert to ascertain the child’s opinions.

There will be limitations on the types of people who are permitted to be present in court during these proceedings so that the victim won’t have to give testimony in front of a lot of unfamiliar people, which could be upsetting.

The victim must receive information from the Courts Service regarding referrals to support services.

In criminal proceedings for orders violations, all parties’ identities—aside from cases in which the victim chooses not to remain anonymous—will be protected, including those of the victim, any dependents, and the perpetrator. The purpose of this clause is to safeguard a victim’s privacy. However, as long as they adhere to the rules governing anonymity, the media will be permitted to cover these proceedings.

A perpetrator will be able to be prevented from contacting the victim electronically.

To make the law easier to use, provisions pertaining to domestic violence will be combined into one piece of legislation.

The Minister continued by saying that the adoption of the Domestic Violence Bill will also mark a significant advancement in Ireland’s efforts to ratify the Istanbul Convention, also known as the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The Minister plans to ask the government for permission to sign the Istanbul Convention on behalf of Ireland in the fall.

The Minister declared in his closing statement that “it is in the interests of victims that we get this legislation drafted and enacted as soon as possible.”