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Minister Flanagan announces passage of Domestic Violence Bill 2017

20180502_Domestic Violence

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, this afternoon announced that the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 has now passed all stages in the Oireachtas.

Speaking following the passage of the Bill in the Seanad, Minister Flanagan said:

I am delighted that the Domestic Violence Bill has now been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the Oireachtas this year.

The main improvements to the law contained in the Domestic Violence Bill are as follows:

· There will be an extensive list of factors that a court must consider when dealing with an application for a domestic violence order. The list is not exhaustive and will not limit a court’s discretion to make an order.

· The requirement for a relationship to be “committed” to enable a person to apply for a domestic violence order has been removed.

· Where a court is satisfied that the threshold for making an order has been reached, it must make an order.

· Domestic violence orders will remain in force in respect of dependants after they reach the age of 18, until the orders expire.

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

· Victims of domestic violence who are cohabiting with, or are parents of, the perpetrator 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 an interest which is less than the perpetrator’s.

· When making a safety order or barring order, courts will be able to prohibit a perpetrator of domestic violence from communicating with the victim electronically.

· The Bill will provide protection against cross-examination conducted in person.

· Courts will be required to give reasons for decisions relating to applications for orders under the Bill.

· Courts will be able to direct personal service by An Garda Síochána of orders on respondents in cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent will try to evade service.

· Special out-of-hours sittings of the District Court may be requested by An Garda Síochána where necessary to deal with urgent applications for orders.

· Victims will be able to give evidence by live television link to avoid the risk of intimidation.

· Victims will be able to bring a friend, family member or support worker into court to support them during proceedings.

· Children will be able to make their views known to the court where an order is sought on behalf of, or will partly relate to, 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 information on support services for victims of domestic violence.

· The courts will be able to recommend 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.

· The Bill will provide for a new criminal offence of forced marriage.

· The Bill will provide for a new criminal 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.

· Where a person is convicted of a violent or sexual offence against his or her spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are in an intimate relationship, that fact shall be an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing.

· Part 3 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1992, which relates to special protective measures for giving of evidence by victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings for violent or sexual offences, will apply to the offences of breaching a domestic violence order, coercive control and forced marriage.

· The legislative provisions that enable persons under the age of 18 to marry will be repealed.