Bill to increase powers to prosecute violence against Irish abroad

State to ratify Istanbul Convention combating violence against women when law passed

Fianna Fáil’s  Jim O’Callaghan said 25 per cent of all violent crimes reported internationally involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. Photograph: iStock

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said 25 per cent of all violent crimes reported internationally involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. Photograph: iStock

 

Ireland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women moved a step closer after the final piece of required legislation to make the State fully compliant was introduced in the Dáil.

The Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill, introduced by Minister of State for Justice David Stanton, will give the State increased powers to investigate and prosecute crimes committed abroad by Irish citizens and residents.

Offences under the legislation include assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion, harassment, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and rape. Murder and manslaughter are already dealt with in existing international agreements.

The legislation has already been passed by the Seanad and once passed by the Dáil and commenced, the Government will ratify the convention which the Minister described as a “significant legal instrument in the fight against domestic and sexual violence”.

Three other pieces of linked legislation have been implemented including the Domestic Violence Act which protects victims in domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation cases.

Consent

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act enacted in 2017 introduced a statutory definition of consent to a sexual act. It also provides protections to victims of sexual assault to prevent additional trauma when their case comes to court.

The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, enacted in 2017, includes a range of measures to protect and inform victims as their case goes through the criminal justice system.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said that 25 per cent of all violent crimes reported internationally involve a man assaulting his wife or partner.

It was also the case that a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a current or former partner than by any other person. And in Ireland since 1996, 216 women have died violently in this country and 63 per cent were killed in their own homes, he said.

“There is an international problem and a domestic problem in respect of violence against women. It is appropriate that we send out a consistent message that such violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”

Convention

Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin said 45 countries have signed the convention but just 33 have ratified it. “We need to be the next country to ratify it,” she said. “We need to be able to equip the Judiciary with everything we can to ensure perpetrators of violence against women and domestic violence can be brought to heel, even when they escape and leave the jurisdiction.”

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said “we must do everything we can to protect women, children and everybody from all forms of violence, and prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and violence against women”.

But he warned that without the resources to support the aims of ratification “we will continue to fail women, children and men who suffer domestic violence”.

He asked if the Minister planned to review the implementation of the 2018 Domestic Violence Act particularly in relation to training.

“Garda representative bodies highlighted the issue that many of their members did not feel adequately trained and in that context felt ill-equipped to implement the Act properly,” he said.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock noted that the UK had signed the convention and he asked if there had been any discussion on how Brexit might “impact on the interpretation of this legislation vis-à-vis our relationship with the UK given the close ties that exist between the two countries”.

Independents4Change TD Thomas Pringle welcomed the move towards ratification of the Istanbul Convention but he said “but it is disappointing that it is taking so long to get there”, particularly when it was signed in 2011 at the Council of Europe.

The Bill now goes to committee stage.