A Co Kildare-based judge has said his experience is that about 70 per cent of women who get domestic violence protection orders do not take them any further.
At Naas District Court, Judge Desmond Zaidan said of 20 cases alleging breach of protection orders in his list one day last week, 19 applicants did not want to take them any further and did not want to deal with gardaí. The remaining applicant was unwell, he said.
In 18 years on the bench, Judge Zaidan said his experience was that about 70 per cent of protection orders were not followed up.
Protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act are short-term orders granted ex parte – one side only represented – if a judge is satisfied from the applicant’s evidence that there is immediate risk to their safety. If the respondent is not living with the applicant, an order can direct them to stay away from and stop communicating with them.
Judge Zaidan made the observations on Wednesday when dealing with a case involving a young man alleged to have breached a protection order obtained by a young woman with whom he’d had a relationship.
The woman alleged the man had sent her a message saying he would damage her home where she lives with her mother. He denied the claim. The prosecuting garda, who said the woman had said she could not come to court because her young child was unwell, asked the judge to restrain the man communicating with the woman and to stay away from the area where she lives.
Objecting to continuing bail for the man, she said he was required to sign on three times a week as part of bail conditions concerning another matter but had not signed on as required.
Tim Kennelly, the man’s solicitor, said the relationship between the pair was “toxic”.
The man, whom the court heard is not the father of the woman’s child, had instructed that the relationship ended in recent days and that was the reason the woman alleged a breach of the protection order, he said.
Mr Kennelly showed a photo to the judge of the man and woman posted last weekend on social media. The judge remarked that the man and woman “look in love”.
He said he saw cases “all the time” where hearing dates were fixed some months down the line after protection orders were obtained but most female applicants then did not want to proceed and many wished to have nothing to do with gardaí.
In this case, the woman got a protection order after telling another judge she was afraid of the man, later spent a weekend drinking cocktails with him and then made a complaint about him, Mr Kennelly said. His client faced prison as a result, he said.
The judge warned the man that he must adhere to the protection order. He told him he had no right to allegedly put the woman in fear and no right to threaten her.
The man could end up in prison, “possibly for months”, for any breach of the orders, he told him. He also made orders requiring him to sign on at a Garda station once weekly.
Judge Zaidan remarked that gardaí knew that dealing with protection orders took up a lot of time although many of the applications did not proceed to hearing. Gardaí and the courts are “caught between a rock and a hard place” because the concern is to prevent a case “slipping through the net”, he said.