Domestic Violence Bill a welcome improvement
Barnardos welcomes that the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has today published a new Domestic Violence Bill which aims to improve the protections available to people experiencing domestic abuse. It is particularly heartening the new Bill explicitly provides for the voices of children to be heard in court proceedings that relate to them.
The Minister has also vowed to bring forward amendments to the Bill to extend access to safety and protection orders to those in intimate and committed relationships but who are not cohabiting. This will offer greater protections those in a dating relationship which is good news for any potential victim and their children. The Bill provides for a new emergency barring order that can last up to eight days, and which can be sought by an applicant regardless of their interest in the property in which they reside. This is a much needed improvement. Moreover, the Bill will repeal the exemptions which currently allow persons under the age of 18 to marry. These collective changes will bridge many of the gaps that exist in the current domestic violence legislation.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “It is encouraging the Minister has taken a holistic view of domestic abuse and she has recognised the impact that domestic abuse has on the entire family, and on society. Children in particular have too long been forgotten in this debate with the impact of domestic abuse on their childhood being overlooked. The proposal of hearing their views and experiences through an expert in cases affecting them will improve judicial decisions. However, clarity needs to be provided around who is considered a child’s view expert in this legislation and in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.”
“Another new provision in this Bill requires the court services provide victims of domestic abuse with information about the support services that are available to them. However, there is currently a severe dearth of support services available to those experiencing domestic abuse, and where there are supports they are oversubscribed and inadequately resourced. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed.”
“One such service needed is the establishment of child contact centres across the country where children can safely have supervised access in those cases where supervised access is court ordered. Currently there are no facilities in which this contact can occur, and we know that sometimes the person who is the victim of domestic abuse has to supervise the contact themselves between their child and the abuser. This opens them up to further abuse and intimidation and it is wholly inappropriate.”
“Overall, this Bill is a positive step forward and will improve the protections available to people experiencing domestic abuse. We urge that the Bill is expedited through the Oireachtas so its impact can be felt promptly.”