Law Society calls for urgent enactment of new court rules for domestic violence applications

The Law Society of Ireland has called on the Minister for Justice and Equality to enact the new District and Circuit Court rules required under the new Domestic Violence Act 2018 as a matter of urgency.

Keith Walsh, family law solicitor and chair of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee, explains that the new legislation, which came into force on 1 January 2018, also requires updated rules at District and Circuit Court level.

“The vast majority of applications for safety orders and other measures take place in the District Court. Family law solicitors acting for vulnerable clients in these distressing situations would normally rely on a set of procedures contained in the District Court Rules in order to make these applications quickly and correctly.”

However, the new rules required as a result of the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 have not been published, leaving solicitors, barristers, court staff and judges in a difficult position.

Mr Walsh explains, “For example, the new Act contains an innovative emergency barring order which lasts for eight days. The current District Court rules do not provide for this order being made. Procedural irregularities could prevent emergency orders from being made, potentially with disastrous consequences for genuine victims of domestic violence.”

“There should be no uncertainty about the procedural rules surrounding this new emergency order. In the meantime, an ad-hoc system has been developed, but this simply does not do justice to the victims of domestic violence and is unacceptable.”

Domestic violence creates a heavy burden on the victim, their children, Irish society as a whole and the economy. In 2016 more than 10,000 women received support from domestic violence support services in Ireland, according to Safe Ireland.

Mr Walsh added, “We understand that the new rules have been drafted and are simply awaiting final approval. The new legislation was implemented more than three weeks ago and the new rules simply must be introduced immediately, or we risk failing the victims of domestic violence.”

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