Bill to ban domestic abusers contacting victims by phone, web

Proposed law would allow victims give evidence via TV link, curb court attendees

 

Perpetrators of domestic violence will be prevented from contacting their victims by phone or online through new legislation to be considered by Cabinet today.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will seek approval from Government to publish the reformed and consolidated Domestic Violence Bill.

The legislation will allow for victims to give evidence through television links and will restrict the categories of people allowed in the courtroom for civil and criminal cases.

The Bill will also provide an opportunity for children to make their views known to the court when a barring, safety or protection order is sought on their behalf or relates to them.

The court will have the option of appointing an expert to assist it to ascertain the views of the child.

Ms Fitzgerald is seeking to consolidate all other existing domestic violence legislation into one Bill and will add further protections for victims.

Some of the amendments proposed by the Tánaiste include allowing for victims of domestic violence who are living with their abuser to apply for an emergency barring order, ensuring they cannot access the shared home.

Currently a request for a barring order is heard by the District Court. Under the new proposals an emergency order can be granted based on a sworn affidavit to the judge. The judge must believe there is an immediate risk to the applicant.

Programmes

The courts will be allowed to ban a perpetrator from contacting the victim electronically and will give judges power to refer abusers to programmes.

The Courts Service will also be legally obliged to provide information to victims of domestic violence about support services.

The Tánaiste will also make forced marriage a criminal offence for the first time.

Currently the issue is not currently dealt with directly by Irish law but will now be defined in this Bill.

Ms Fitzgerald will also repeal all exemptions that allow a person under the age of 18 to marry.

Ireland has not yet ratified the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

It is known as the Istanbul Convention and obliges governments to fully address the issue of violence against women, to protect women against all forms of violence and to prosecute perpetrators.

Ireland signed the convention in November last year, but a number of actions need to be taken before it can be ratified, including the enactment of new domestic violence legislation.