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NWCI welcomes the Domestic Violence Bill, but says it fails to meet the extent of the problem

Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) welcomed the Domestic Violence Bill before Cabinet today, which will pave the way to allow for Ireland’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. However, NWCI cautioned that it fails to meet the extent of the problem.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“NWCI welcomes the new measures to be introduced in the Domestic Violence Bill, and welcomes the fact that Ireland is moving towards ratification of the Istanbul Convention. One in five women in Ireland experience domestic violence and the new measures proposed will provide more protection for women in domestic violence situations. NWCI welcome in particular the enhanced protection of and support for victims when they are going to court, the removal of the barrier of property ownership when applying for interim barring orders and the recognition of the new reality of online abuse. The Bill provides that a victim would be able to apply for an order to prevent the perpetrator from following or communicating with the victim, including by electronic means, other than for communications specifically specified by the court and this is a welcome development.”

Orla O’Connor continued,
“However there are gaps in the Bill, particularly in relation to the introduction of a specific offence of domestic violence, emergency barring orders and the establishment of stalking as a criminal offence. One gap in the current legislation is the lack of emergency barring orders to provide immediate protection during out-of-hours when courts are not sitting. There is a clear need for orders to be available outside of traditional Court hours, so that victims of domestic violence do not find themselves without protection for extended periods of time, and it is a disappointment that the Bill does not give powers to members of An Garda Siochana for a specified period of time (72 hour period) to bar a perpetrator from the home to enable a victim immediate space to consider her options. Alongside this, the Bill should have provided the opportunity to expand the definition of domestic violence to include not just married couples and co-habitees but also include other intimate relationships.

“Furthermore, our current legislation dealing with harassment and stalking does not explicitly refer to a number of new technologies that are used to stalk and harass women, and the offence is difficult to prove in court. NWCI had called for specific offence of stalking should be introduced in Irish law, and that stalking be recognised as a ground to apply for a Safety Order, even in the absence of a criminal conviction. Finally, we need to introduce a specific offence of domestic violence, separate from the general offence of public assault under which it is now prosecuted.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,

“We know that domestic abuse is not a random event, but a cause and a consequence of women's inequality. Unless we accept this, we will undermine services that support women to recover, and we will be nowhere near to any success in preventing domestic abuse. We must tackle the sexism and inequality within our culture that permits men’s violence to flourish, and that encourages shame and secrecy around the crime. We have a long way to go in Ireland but if the political will and leadership provides the necessary resources and investment we can make Ireland a safe place for women.”

For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications Officer, 085 8619 087