Judge orders release of 999 call audio in domestic violence case

A judge has ordered gardaí to release audio of a 999 call in a family law case and has also stressed that under new domestic violence legislation put in place last month any communication between partners where a court has banned it should be treated “as a matter of seriousness”.

The matter emerged at a recent sitting of the District Court in West Cork when the case of a woman and a man against whom she has a safety order was discussed in court.

While the substantive matters were discussed in chambers, Judge James McNulty addressed gardaí in court on two aspects of the case, raised by each of the parties.

He ordered gardaí to release audio and/or a transcript of a 999 call made by the woman but requested by the solicitor for the man.

Separately, the solicitor for the woman alleged that the man had breached an interim order that had been put in place banning all communication between them, now covered in the new Act.

Among the provisions of the newly instituted Domestic Violence Act 2018 is that where a Protection Order, Safety Order or Barring Order is made, it can now include, where necessary, a ban on a person following or communicating with the other person, including by electronic means.

On the 999 call Judge McNulty told gardaí in court: “Gardaí are required to assist [the solicitor] so that she has the opportunity to listen to that recording and if there is a written transcript of it, better again.”

He requested that the call and its contents be made available within seven days. As for the electronic communication alleged by the man, the judge said he had been told gardaí were uncertain whether the communication was in itself an offence.

“The second issue is that [another solicitor] represents the young woman and an interim order has been made some days ago and it contained a direction that the respondent was not to communicate with the young woman,” Judge McNulty said.

“It has been alleged that he has done so and I have been told that the gardaí to whom these complaints have been reported seem unsure as to whether these communications constitute criminal offences.

“I know the gardaí are dealing with a new law, the Domestic Violence Act that has been in place since January, so we are all in new territory, but I want to make it clear that it is a clear direction that he is not to communicate [with the woman] and I have to inform officers that if there is a breach of that direction it should be treated as a matter of seriousness that requires attention.

“A breach of a court order would be prosecutable and can be done at short notice,” Judge McNulty added.

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