State must do more to protect women in danger

Garda and judicial responses to domestic violence remain objectionable

The response of official agencies to domestic violence has improved, but more needs to be done.

The level of official protection offered to vulnerable women in abusive relationships continues to fall short of acceptable standards. Judicial decisions that grant violent partners access to children in family homes, leading to assaults on mothers, are as objectionable as the cavalier response to domestic violence by some gardaí. These are not new defects. They represent a long-established, hands-off approach to domestic violence that empower men while placing women and children at risk.

A report by Women’s Aid for 2017 cites almost 16,000 cases of domestic violence against women and a further 3,500 against children. Physical, sexual and emotional abuses are mentioned, involving knife and gun threats. The charity’s director Margaret Martin said the cases reflected women’s fears and suffering and, in some instances, their inability to escape from their abusers because of the housing crisis. Women and children had been locked out of family homes; forced to sleep in cars; on the floors of helpful friends and they lived in fear.

The introduction of training courses for members of the Garda and the judiciary who deal with cases of domestic sexual abuse and violence would represent a significant advance. A Judicial Council and the Department of Justice could put new guidelines in place. Such action has become imperative.

Responses have improved, but misogynistic attitudes die hard

Arising from judicial decisions last year – and notwithstanding court barring orders - more than 400 women were beaten during home visits to their children by violent partners. One-third of women who reported incidents of violence and abuse at Garda stations were dissatisfied with their treatment


The response by State agents to incidents of domestic violence has improved during recent decades. Women are no longer regarded as “chattels” under the law. But misogynistic attitudes die hard. It is encouraging that almost two-thirds of women who went for help to gardaí were satisfied by the treatment they received. Responses varied from station to station, however, and even within stations. Much remains to be done.