Sharp increases in domestic violence applications, childcare orders, and divorce cases reflect “increased pressure” on families throughout the pandemic, the Courts Service has said.
In its 2020 annual report, the Courts Service said domestic violence cases jumped by 65% in the last five years.
Refuge providers said the 2020 court figures “certainly tally” with the increased demand for support from domestic violence services across the country.
The report reveals:
- A 29% increase in applications for divorce, including a 25% increase in wives seeking divorce in the Circuit Court;
- A 12% rise in domestic violence protections sought;
- A 27% increase in childcare orders sought to protect the safety of vulnerable children.
The Courts Services said: “The effects of lockdown for extended periods did not decrease the availability of the family law courts – which remained open and were part of the We are Still Here campaign of the wider justice community.
“However, there is evidence that there were increased pressures or pressure points on family life throughout the pandemic requirements to stay at home, stay local, with the adjacent home schooling, home working, and home isolation that unemployment caused.”
It said there were almost 23,000 domestic violence (DV) orders sought in 2020, compared to 20,500 in 2019. This included a 17% rise in interim barring orders.
Mary McDermott, chief executive of Safe Ireland, said: “The increase in DV applications shown in the Court Services report certainly tallies with the increased demand for support from DV services across the country since Covid began.”
She said that without a comprehensive prevalence study, it could not be known for sure if it was a real increase in domestic violence.
Ms McDermott praised the commitment by the Courts Service and the judiciary for prioritising such applications during Covid, adding gardaí had acted similarly. She said a rise in applications would be expected from 2019, with the commencement of new laws extending those eligible to seek a domestic violence order.
But she added: “However, one way or another, a 65% increase is significant and a hopeful reflection that more survivors know that domestic violence/coercive control is a crime and that they can make a court application to seek safety.”