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Domestic violence court cases fall despite spike in reported incidents

 

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Court applications relating to domestic violence slumped by 23pc after the Covid-19 lockdown, figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

Although gardaí reported a spike in reported domestic abuse incidents, this did not translate into increased court hearings.

Support groups say the mid-March lockdown reduced the ability of victims to access the courts. Amid concern over the issue, the President of the District Court, Judge Colin Daly, is now examining whether one-side-only applications can be made by online video link in future.

Courts Service data shows there were 4,695 domestic violence-related applications in the District Court between March 16 and July 3.

This was down from 6,149 applications in the same period last year.

Despite the slump, the level of temporary orders applied for and granted increased on the same period last year.

However, permanent orders were down considerably.

Applications for protection orders, temporary orders which prohibit respondents from using or threatening to use violence, were up 17.5pc, with 2,497 made in the 110-day period after the lockdown in mid-March. Some 2,170 of these were granted.

Also up were applications for interim barring orders, increasing by almost 33pc to 658. Of these, 406 were granted up to July 3.

On the flipside, full barring order applications slumped by 45.9pc, down to 541 compared to the same period last year with 250 being granted.

Applications for safety orders, which prohibit a respondent from acts or threats of violence and can last for up to five years, decreased by 60pc after the lockdown, with just 939 being made.

Of these, 242 were granted by July 3.

Chilling

Women's Aid chief executive Sarah Benson said lack of childcare and concern over public transport were among the "chilling factors" that stopped victims from accessing the courts.

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She predicted the courts would be "absolutely swamped" in the coming months, not only dealing with pent-up domestic violence applications and other family law matters.

Caitríona Gleeson, programme and communications manager with Safe Ireland, said the use of virtual hearings warranted consideration, not as a replacement for regular court sittings, but to facilitate applicants who may not be able to travel to court for a variety of reasons.


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