New domestic abuse law will ban online and phone contact
Perpetrators of domestic violence will be banned under new laws from communicating with their victims by phone or online.
Victims will be allowed to give evidence by video link and there will be restrictions on who can be present in a courtroom in an attempt to crack down on witness intimidation.
The heads of the new Domestic Violence Bill, unveiled today by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, will also make it easier for victims of domestic violence to secure emergency interim barring orders to remove the perpetrator from the family home.
The law, if passed, will mean that the victim will no longer have to have a greater or equal property interest in the family home from which the perpetrator is being barred.
The constitutionally protected private property rights of offenders, including home ownership, had in the past been seen as a major barrier to the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.
But Ms Fitzgerald has said that it is her intention to seek government approval for Ireland to sign the Istanbul Convention in the autumn.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, she said the bill would place the needs of victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.
The bill will introduce a single, consolidated law to address all aspects of domestic violence.
Along with the EU Victims Directive, it will provide better legal protection and supports to victims of domestic violence.
Key features of the new domestic violence bill, whose heads are published today include:
- Allowing judges to bar a perpetrator from communicating with the victim electronically, other than where such communication has been ordered by the court, eg, in relation to childcare;
- Victims will be allowed to give evidence by video link to avoid intimidation by perpetrators or their associates;
- Restrictions on court attendees in order to avoid intimidation;
- Compulsory referral by the Courts Service to support services;
- Appointment of experts to ascertain the views of children where orders affect them.
Survey results issued by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights revealed that one in seven Irish women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from a partner from the age of 15.
Since 1996, 206 women have been unlawfully killed in Ireland, with more than six out of 10 of these killed in their own homes. More than half of the women in cases resolved by the criminal justice system were murdered by a partner or former partner.