New domestic violence act to go into effect 2019

From January 1, 2019, the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 will commence.

The new act includes important measures such as the extension for eligibility for safety orders to young women who experience abuse in dating relationships; recognition of an intimate relationship as an aggravating factor in domestic violence cases and the crime of coercive control.

According to Women's Aid, the national domestic violence frontline support organisation, ‘Out-of-Hours’ Special Sittings will be allowed by the District Courts to provide for orders in emergency situations and the prohibition of electronic communication with victims.

The new provisions also include important steps to make it easier for those affected by domestic abuse to avail of the court system and link in with specialist support services.

 

Women’s Aid will monitor the impact of the provision to treat the intimate relationship between the abuser and his victim as an aggravating factor through its ongoing Sentencing Watch project with a report due in September 2019.

According to Women’s Aid research, one in five women in Ireland has experienced emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse from a current or former intimate partner in her lifetime.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, explained how important this milestone is for domestic abuse survivors in Ireland: “From 1st January 2019, women must feel change quickly. It must be positive, it must be practical and it must make them and their children safer from abuse.

“What is promised on paper must be fully resourced to be effective in protecting those affected by domestic violence. We are concerned that an already over-stretched system will see an increase in demand when the new provisions commence.  

The act will also extend the eligibility for access to Safety and Protection Orders to those in intimate relationships who have never lived with their boyfriends.

“This change will make a significant difference to the safety of younger women," Martin continued. "We also welcome the move to prevent abusers to communicate electronically with their victims, a step in the right direction to address the digital abuse and online harassment of women by partners and exes.”

Women’s Aid welcomes the inclusion of the relationship between defendant and victim as an aggravating circumstance in relevant offences.

“This change must bring about better sanctioning for domestic violence perpetrators and contribute to an increased sense of justice for women," explained Martin.

"Our figures showing that intimate partners are sentenced, on average, to three years less prison time compared to other men convicted of killing women, suggesting that an intimate relationship is seen as a mitigating rather than an aggravating factor. The Women’s Aid Sentencing Watch will monitor whether the change is seen in the decision making of the Courts.”

“Our Impact Report for 2017 highlighted the level of domestic violence in Irish society and the impact of poorly resourced, inappropriate and inconsistent responses from the State have on women and children struggling against the odds.

“Women experiencing domestic violence deserve a system that supports and protects them as they move themselves and their children to safety.”

According to Women’s Aid research, one in five women in Ireland has experienced emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse from a current or former intimate partner in her lifetime.

The charity organisation also provides a free, national, domestic violence 24hr helpline at 1-800-341-900 with specialised trained staff & volunteers.

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