Domestic violence law to cover coercion and dates

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has enacted domestic violence legislation to include new crimes of coercive control and forced marriage and to incorporate crimes committed during dating.

Mr Flanagan said the provisions bring Ireland “a step closer” to ratifying a European convention to prevent violence against women.

Women’s Aid has welcomed the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2018, but said it must be “properly resourced”, particularly in relation to the gardaí and the courts.

The minister said one of the key protections for victims in the act was the creation of a new offence of coercive control, with those convicted on indictment facing up to five years in jail.

This is described as psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s daily activities.

Mr Flanagan said that, for too long, domestic violence was seen “primarily as physical abuse” and said that non-violent control in an intimate relationship can be as harmful, “because it is an abuse of the unique trust associated with an intimate relationship”.

He said another important provision would ensure that an intimate relationship between a victim and a perpetrator would be treated as an “aggravated factor” in sentencing for offences.

Provisions in the act, such as applying for a safety order, will also be extended to people who are not living together, but are dating.

The act also stipulates that it will be possible for a victim to give evidence by live television link, both in civil cases and criminal cases, in relation to breaches of domestic violence orders.

The act also includes a new offence of forced marriage.

This is where someone removes a person from the State and subjects them to violence, threats, or any form of coercion, in order to get them to enter into a ceremony of marriage — described as religious, civil or secular, whether legally binding or not.

Anyone (including those facilitating the removal) convicted on indictment could face up to seven years in jail.

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