Family courts 'letting down the victims of domestic abuse'
The family courts have been described as "subhuman" - a place where victims of domestic violence are often left feeling no one can protect them.
The "appalling" lack of privacy in Dolphin House, Dublin's main family court, has meant many women suffering violence at the hands of their partners have been forced to sit across from their abusers as they wait to have their case heard.
Ursula Regan, chair of Women's Aid, outlined the conditions at the launch of a report into domestic abuse in Ireland. "One instance of this has never left me… there was a very distressed female who was trying to instruct her barrister and as I walked by, she said: 'You're not getting this. I was raped last night. I want protection'."
"In that moment, that poor woman was stripped of her dignity. She, like many others, had no privacy because of the shocking lack of facilities afforded to those seeking help in the family courts."
This bleak appraisal of Ireland's biggest family court was given during the launch of Women Aid's new Impact Report, which revealed there were 22,341 reports of domestic abuse against women and children in Ireland in 2015.
Describing the experiences of those who contacted their free helpline or one-to-one services, the group disclosed a litany of instances where women had been kept prisoner in their own homes, cut with knives, strangled and slapped while pregnant, spat on, and even one shocking case where an 18-year-old had begun to join his father beating his mother.
"In the last 20 years, 46pc of women were killed by their partner's own hands," said Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid since 2003. "As our figures show, a man's bare hands can be as dangerous as any weapon."
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said efforts were under way to improve conditions at the family courts, and that it was "likely" the Government would ratify the Istanbul Convention [on preventing violence against women] later in the year.