Call for resources to tackle domestic violence

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New domestic violence laws which come into effect today won’t be effective unless support services, the gardaí and the courts are given additional resources.

That’s according to Women’s Aid, who have called on the Government to ensure to back the Domestic Violence Act 2018 with additional measures and supports.

The legislation includes measures such as the extension for eligibility for safety orders to young women who experience abuse in dating relationships; recognition of an intimate relationship as an aggravating factor in domestic violence cases, and the crime of coercive control.

It will also see the introduction of out-of-hours’ special sittings of the district courts to provide for orders in emergency situations and the prohibition of electronic communication with victims.

The legislation also includes measures to make it easier for those affected by domestic abuse to avail of the court system and link in with specialist support services.

Women’s Aid has said it plans to monitor the impact of the provision to treat the intimate relationship between the abuser and his victim as an aggravating factor through its ongoing Sentencing Watch project, with a report due in September 2019.

Director of Women’s Aid Margaret Martin said the laws were the culmination of many years of lobbying by the group and other organisations.

“From today, women must feel change quickly. It must be positive, it must be practical, and it must make them and their children safer from abuse. What is promised on paper must be fully resourced to be effective in protecting those affected by domestic violence.

We are concerned that an already over-stretched system will see an increase in demand when the new provisions commence.

Ms Martin said Women’s Aid’s national helpline was available to those affected by domestic violence but also to people wondering how the new laws will affect them.

She also highlighted the extension of eligibility for access to safety and protection orders to those in intimate relationships, who have never lived with their boyfriends as a key part of the new law.

“This change will make a significant difference to the safety of younger women.

“We also welcome the move to prevent abusers to communicate electronically with their victims, a step in the right direction to address the digital abuse and online harassment of women by partners and exes.”

Ms Martin also welcomed the introduction of out-of-hours special sittings of the district courts to provide for orders in emergency situations.

“We hope that Garda will use this provision to offer vulnerable women the chance to apply for immediate protection when it is needed and that this measure is adequately resourced, so that it will work in practice.

“The Domestic Violence Act will bring about much-needed improvement for women experiencing domestic violence. The systems to support women as they try to access support and protection from abuse must be properly resourced to make sure that the provisions make a real difference for victims of domestic violence especially for specialist support services, the courts and the gardaí,” she said.

Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline can be contacted at 1800 341 900

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