The legal ban on courts refusing bail to people facing domestic violence charges needs to be reviewed by the Government, according to Women’s Aid.
The charity said the prohibition applies even in cases where alleged perpetrators are deemed to be “high risk” and the granting of bail would place the women concerned at risk of further violence and retaliation.
The call is one of a number of recommendations in a major piece of research by Women’s Aid, which is being published today.
The study, Unheard and Uncounted, also calls for:
The report called for greater support for victims before, during and after court proceedings.
The research said the difficulties facing courts in relation to refusing bail for summary offences “must be addressed”.
Under the Bail Act 1997, bail cannot be refused to people who are facing charges which have a maximum sentence of less than five years (summary offences).
“This means that even if the perpetrator is assessed to be a high risk and gardaí oppose bail, the court cannot refuse bail,” the report said.
It said this could have a very negative impact on the women affected: “Leaving an abuser and/or taking action against him can increase the risk of further violence and retaliation.”
The report said the criminal justice system was “too fragmented” to adequately respond to victims and that this included separate criminal and family courts and the lack of communication between them.
“Breaking up years of abuse into separate incidents hides the continuous and cumulative nature of domestic violence,” it said. “There is an urgent need to reconfigure the entire justice system so that the safety of victims of domestic violence is at its heart.”
The report said the lack of data in Ireland on domestic violence prevented any effective monitoring of how the criminal justice system responds to it.
Instead, the research conducted an examination of reports of domestic violence cases in the media, studying 65 cases in all.
The research also interviewed 20 women regarding their experiences with the criminal justice system.