Women’s Aid calls for proper training for new coercive control laws

‘We want to see the development of good practices; of good, comprehensive training’

The director of Women’s Aid is calling for proper training and resources to enforce the coercive control element of the new Domestic Violence Act 2018.

Margaret Martin on Wednesday morning said training will be important for everyone from the 999 telephone operator, the gardaí, the court clerk and the judge.

"This is a new concept in legislation, it has worked in the UK. We want to see the development of good practices; of good, comprehensive training," she said told Today with Miriam O'Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One.

An offence of psychological or emotional abuse is to be introduced as part of new domestic violence measures announced by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.


Mr Flanagan has commenced work on the Domestic Violence Act 2018 which will improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence under both the civil and criminal law.

A new offence of coercive control – a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse – will come into force.

This abuse in an intimate relationship can cause fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day life.

Under the Domestic Violence Act, safety orders will also be available to those who are in intimate relationships but who are not cohabiting.

Victims of domestic violence will be able to apply for an emergency barring order, lasting for eight working days, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm.

The Act also provides for victims to give evidence by video link both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders. The victim can also be accompanied to court by a person of their choosing to provide support during a civil hearing.

Implementing the legislation is not going to be easy, Ms Martin warned. There needs to be follow-through with proper resourcing and specialised training for gardaí.

Ms Martin said that a lot of services had been “hollowed out” by austerity. Resources would be very important to ensure that every call to the 24 hour helpline can be answered.

That one-to-one support on the helpline was really important, she added.

Another aspect of the new legislation she welcomed, was the fact that dating couples will also be included. “There is a very significant cohort of young women who can now get that protection,” she said.

It is important that women get good support “from the get go”, from the first call, she said.

“A lot give up, they feel overwhelmed. That’s why the Divisional Protective Units need to be properly resourced, so they are dealing with one person at all times,” she said.

She pointed out that even if a prosecution cannot go ahead, it is important that a record be established, so that, if necessary, it can be taken into account if a further complaint is made.

The Women’s Aid helpline is open 24/7 1800 341 900