The Domestic Violence Act 2018 – Victims’ rights strengthened

Sarah Ryan looks at the reforms introduced by the Domestic Violence Act 2018. Sarah Ryan is an Associate in our Family Law Unit.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 (“the Act”) came into effect on 1st January 2019. The Act amends and consolidates the law on domestic violence and introduces changes that serve to strengthen the rights of victims of domestic violence who seek the protection of the courts. The following are a number of key changes introduced by the Act:

Factors the court shall consider

The Act introduces factors and circumstances that the court shall have regard to in determining various applications for specified orders – e.g. Protection Orders, Barring Orders, and Safety Orders. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • any history of violence

  • any conviction of the respondent that involves violence

  • any history of animal cruelty

  • any destruction or damage caused by the respondent

  • any action of the respondent which puts the applicant/dependent person in fear for his or her own safety or welfare

  • any recent separation between the parties

  • substance abuse including abuse of alcohol

  • access to weapons

  • the applicant’s perception of risk to his/her own safety or welfare due to the behavior of the respondent

  • the age and state of health (including pregnancy) of the applicant or any dependent person

  • any evidence in the deterioration in the physical, psychological or emotional welfare of the applicant or dependent person which is caused directly by fear of the behavior of the respondent

The Court must give reasons for its decision to grant or refuse an application.

Safety and Protection Orders

A person applying for either of the above orders no longer needs to have cohabited with the other person. Partners who are in intimate relationship but are not cohabiting are now entitled to apply for a Protection Order and Safety Order.

Barring Orders and Interim Barring Orders

The requirement for a couple to have been living together six out of the previous nine months has been removed. The Act states that the parties must have simply lived together in an intimate relationship with no reference to any minimum time period.

Emergency Barring Order

The Act introduces a new order which can be granted in certain circumstances and ex-parte to a party with no legal or beneficial interest. (or one that is less than that of the applicant). An emergency barring order can be granted for a period not exceeding eight working days.

Additional Protection

When granting a Barring/Safety/Protection Order, the court now has the power to prohibit the respondent from “following or communicating (including by electronic means) with the applicant or dependent person”.

Coercive control – new offence

The Act introduces a new offence of coercive control as knowingly and persistently engaging in behavior that is controlling or coercive, that has a serious effect on a spouse or a person who is, or was, in an intimate relationship with the alleged offender, and that a reasonable person would consider likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person.

Engagement with Services

The court can recommend, when making an order under the Act that the respondent engage with services, such as programs aimed at perpetrators of domestic violence, addiction or counselling services.

Conclusion

The changes introduced by the Domestic Violence Act 2018 not only strengthen the rights for victims of domestic violence but also assist in enabling Ireland to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

About the author: Sarah Ryan is an Associate Solicitor in our Family Law Unit and can be contacted at sryan@dgod.ie

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