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Victims of domestic violence could soon apply for barring orders online

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The District Court is examining the possibility of hearing domestic violence applications online amid a surge in cases following the Covid-19 lockdown in March.

Applications for protection orders have increased by 17pc on the same period last year and by 30pc on 2018, according to figures from the Courts Service.

While the court has been able to deal with this rise, campaigners fear the crisis has reduced the ability of some victims to get away from abusive partners and to travel to court to make applications for protection and barring orders.

The President of the District Court, Judge Colin Daly, said discussions were taking place to see if ex-parte, or "one side only", applications could be dealt with in virtual courtrooms where applicants can log in from home.

"We are currently engaged in conversations with some domestic violence support services about how remote applications for domestic violence ex-parte orders could be achieved," he said.

The judge made the comments during an online seminar hosted by One Family, a charity providing supports to one-parent families.

While much court business has been significantly curtailed by the coronavirus crisis, domestic violence cases were always treated as a priority. Lately the District Court has also been prioritising other family law issues as well such as disputes over maintenance and denial of access to children.

Judge Daly said the District Court intends to provide "as full a service as public health guidelines allow" from September 1.

He said this could only be achieved by placing greater emphasis on the scheduling of hearings and by regulating the flow of people through the courts. "With family law cases we can relatively easily provide a safe court environment.

"However, the gathering of large numbers of people in the court environs waiting for cases to come on can no longer be the norm," he said.

Judge Daly also warned that the "old culture" of waiting to come to a court building before starting negotiations in disputes could no longer be facilitated.

"So I would encourage parties to mediate and settle cases where at all possible," he said.

Irish Independent