Children should have powers to make domestic violence applications – Shannon

Geoffrey Shannon says more should be done to consider the impact of violence on children

Geoffrey  Shannon said more is required in domestic violence legislation to take into account the impact of such violence in households on children.  File photograph: iStock

Geoffrey Shannon said more is required in domestic violence legislation to take into account the impact of such violence in households on children. File photograph: iStock

 

Children should be given powers to make their own court applications relating to issues of domestic violence without having to rely on their parents, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection has said.

In a critique of the forthcoming Domestic Violence Act, Geoffrey Shannon has said several areas need to be addressed in relation to how such issues affect children.

In his 11th annual report to the Oireachtas, he said child-specific services were needed for those who experience domestic violence, a theme he has addressed in the past.

Domestic violence legislation is primarily designed to accommodate applications by victims of abuse for safety, barring and protection orders.

“Children, having regard to their age and maturity, should be given the power and authority to make applications for protection and safety orders in their own right - without having to rely on a parent or the CFA (Child and Family Agency) to make an application on their behalf,” Mr Shannon wrote.

The new Act is designed as a comprehensive piece of legislation enabling Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention - European law on combating violence against women.

However, Mr Shannon believes more is required to take into account the impact of such violence in households on children.

“Witnessing domestic abuse and living in such an environment can scar children emotionally, impact upon their development and result in anxiety and aggression,” his report notes. “Without assistance, the damage caused can be irreparable.”

It notes that while there is no precise data available on how many children are affected by domestic violence in Ireland, statistics from Women’s Aid for 2015 record almost 6,000 disclosures of child abuse.

His report also calls for a national system of Child Contact Centres to facilitate supervised post-separation contact between parents and children.

Such facilities would also provide play and art therapy for children, as well as anger-management classes and other support services for parents.