Women's Aid calling for proper training and resources to enforce new Domestic Violence bill

Director of Women’s Aid Margaret Martin

By Vivienne Clarke

The director of Women’s Aid is calling for proper training and resources to enforce the coercive control element of the new Domestic Violence Act 2018.

Margaret Martin told RTE’s Today with Miriam show that training will be important for everyone from the 999 telephone operator, the gardaí, the court clerk and the judge.

“This is a new concept in legislation, it has worked in the UK. We want to see the development of good practices, of good, comprehensive training.”

For women, the introduction of coercive control into legislation is a good sign, it is affirmative, she said. “There’s a way for us all to go on this journey.”

Implementing the legislation is not going to be easy, she warned. There needs to be follow-through with proper resourcing and specialised training for gardaí.

Ms Martin said that a lot of services had been “hollowed out” by austerity. Resources would be very important to ensure that every call to the 24 hour helpline can be answered.

That one-to-one support on the helpline was really important, she added.

Another aspect of the new legislation she welcomed, was the fact that dating couples will also be included. “There is a very significant cohort of young women who can now get that protection.”

It is important that women get good support “from the get go”, from the first call, she said. “A lot give up, they feel overwhelmed. That’s why the Divisional Protective Units need to be properly resourced, so they are dealing with one person at all times.”

She pointed out that even if a prosecution cannot go ahead, it is important that a record be established, so that, if necessary, it can be taken into account if a further complaint is made.

The Women’s Aid helpline is open 24/7 1800 341 900

Justice Minister to introduce emotional abuse offences as part of new domestic violence measures

By Daniel McConnell

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has announced his intention to introduce an offence of psychological or emotional abuse as part of new domestic violence measures.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 is seeking to improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence under both the civil and criminal law.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

A new offence of coercive control – a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse – will come into force.

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.

Commenting on the new provision, Mr Flanagan said: “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,” he said.

Under the Domestic Violence Act, safety orders will also be available to those 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 eight working days, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm. Emergency barring orders can 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.

Among the main aspects of the new laws include an extensive but non-exhaustive list of factors that courts must consider when dealing with applications for domestic violence orders;

Safety orders will also be available to persons who are in intimate relationships but who are not cohabiting.

Victims of domestic violence will also 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 law also provides for 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.

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