The Domestic Violence Act was passed by the Ministry of Justice and Equality in January 2018. The Act improves the protections available to victims of domestic violence under both the civil and criminal law. Commencemnt of the Act falls under the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (2016-2021).
The main improvements to the law contained in the Act are:
- An extensive but non-exhaustive list of factors that courts must consider when dealing with applications for domestic violence orders.
- Safety orders will be available to persons who are in intimate relationships but who are not cohabiting.
- Victims of domestic violence will be able to apply for an emergency barring order, lasting for 8 working days, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm. Emergency barring orders may be granted even if the victim has no legal or beneficial interest in the property or has an interest which is less than the perpetrator’s.
- Protection against cross-examination conducted in person of the applicant or respondent by the respondent or the applicant respectively where orders are being sought.
- Courts will be required to give reasons for decisions relating to applications for orders under the Act.
- It will be possible for victims to give evidence by live television link both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders.
- A victim will have the possibility of being accompanied to court by a person of his or her choice to provide support during a civil hearing.
- The court will be able to seek the views of children where a safety or barring order is sought on behalf of a child. The court will have the option of appointing an expert to assist the court to ascertain the views of the child.
- The Courts Service will have an obligation to offer victims information on domestic violence support services.
- The courts will have the possibility of recommending that a perpetrator engages with services such as programmes aimed at perpetrators of domestic violence, addiction or counselling services.
- Restrictions will be put in place on media reporting and attendance by the general public at criminal court proceedings for breaches of civil domestic violence orders.
- A new criminal offence of forced marriage.
- A new criminal offence of coercive control.
- Where a violent or sexual offence is committed by a person against his or her spouse, civil partner or person with whom he or she is in an intimate relationship, that fact shall be an aggravating factor at sentencing.
- The legislative provisions that enable persons who are aged under 18 to marry are repealed.
- Existing provisions on domestic violence are brought together in one piece of legislation to make the legislation easier to use.
Under the Domestic Violence Act 2018, from 1 January 2019 a person under the age of 18 years can no longer apply to the courts for permission to marry. The Act also makes forced marriage an offence, including removing a person from Ireland for the purpose of them being forcibly married. On conviction on indictment, a person is liable to a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 7 years, or both.
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