Legal challenge to Domestic Violence Act begins

An estranged father of five children has commenced his High Court challenge against provisions of Domestic Violence Act which he claims are unconstitutional and constitute an impermissible attack on the family.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has brought judicial review proceedings against the State aimed at quashing Protection and Safety Orders made against him at a District Court outside of Dublin several months ago.

The man is also seeking a declaration from the court that provisions of Domestic Violence Act concerning such orders are unconstitutional on grounds including that they violates due process, fair procedures and the fundamental rights of the family.

He claims that the legislation makes no provision for any process where a person whom a protection order is made against can apply to have the order revoked, that the order cannot be appealed, and that it will remain on record as a stain against his good name and character forever.

He further argues that a safety order gives an opportunity for one parent to achieve a state of control within a family unit.

He says that the effect of the protection order on him is to deny his children their

constitutional rights, and ensure that their guardian is denied a fair hearing on the issue.

The State, represented by John O'Donnell SC, denies the man's claims. The applicant's wife is a notice party to the proceedings.

The man, who is representing himself, says that his wife left the family home last year, with their two youngest children.

He told the court that these order issued against him under the Act arise out of an incident last Summer when two of his children were left with third parties, that his wife had enlisted to look after them, while she was out of the country.

He said that he had serious concerns about them, and decided to take the children with him to the family home, but he was prevented from doing so. He said that rather than cause a disturbance he left the scene.

He said he contacted the gardaí to get to them to help him retrieve the two children.

However he said that the gardaí declined to assist him, so he was forced to leave the children in a situation that he was far from happy with.

Last winter he received two summons, one for a Safety Order and one for a Barring Order.

He immediately wrote to the court asking for the basis on which these summons were issued, but received no response.

A week later he received a Protection Order by post, the breaching of which he says would result in his immediate imprisonment on the say so of his wife.

As a follow on from that, a Safety Order was made in a District Court earlier this year.

The case before Mr Justice Peter Charleton continues.

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