Vulnerable still at risk and protections not strong enough in Domestic Violence Bill

A Law Society submission calls for essential changes to the Domestic Violence Bill.

  • Bill fails to address risks of those in relationships who are not cohabiting.
  • An Garda Síochána need to be given power to act swiftly in protecting vulnerable at immediate risk.
  • Irish Government yet to adopt UN recommendations regarding legal aid contributions for domestic violence cases.

The Law Society of Ireland has expressed its concerns that protections outlined in the Government’s Domestic Violence Bill are inadequate, inflexible and fail to address the United Nations’ recommendations on legal aid contributions in domestic violence cases. 

In its recent submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, the Law Society welcomed measures to better protect the safety of vulnerable parties in domestic violence cases, however stressed that the Bill did not go far enough.

“Domestic violence cases are some of the most heart-wrenching and difficult briefs a solicitor can work on. It is said that 1 in 5 women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, and evidence shows there is a growing trend in men reporting being abused as well,” said Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society of Ireland.

“Every day our members support those vulnerable people within our community who have suffered domestic violence. We want to ensure that their voice is heard and their concerns are considered in this Bill.”

“The present Bill does not go far enough in protecting the safety and rights of victims particularly in cases where there are immediate risks to welfare. We would call for the Gardai to be given expanded powers to issue interim barring or emergency orders.”

The Law Society’s submission makes eight recommendations that aim to clarify anomalies in the domestic violence area, and to improve protections.

“We would also call for the Bill to cover those in relationships but not cohabiting, and even consider the circumstances of those under 18 years of age that may be in abusive relationships.”

In addition, the Law Society notes and supports recommendations in the recent United Nations report (March 2017) on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, notably:

  • to “introduce a specific definition of domestic violence and other emerging forms of gender-based violence, such as online stalking and harassment”; and
  • to remove barriers facing victims of domestic violence in accessing civil legal aid services by “the State party increase[ing] funding for civil legal aid services, review[ing] the financial eligibility criteria and end[ing] the requirement for victims of domestic violence to make financial contributions for civil legal aid when seeking court protection under domestic violence legislation so as to ensure access to justice for all women without sufficient means.”

“Solicitors are often at the frontline of domestic violence cases in Ireland, and it is our belief that the Bill can be improved significantly through a number of simple changes – simple changes that may literally save or change lives.”

Return to previous press releases