What Legal Options are available?
Domestic abuse is a crime. The Gardaí powers of arrest have been strengthened in Domestic Violence Act, 1996.
Under this law, there are two main kinds of protection available.
- A SAFETY ORDER. This is an order of the court, which forbids the violent person from further violence, or threats of violence. This order does not mean that the violent person has to leave the family home. If that person lives apart from you the order forbids them from watching or being near your home.
- A BARRING ORDER. This is an order, which removes the violent person from the family home.
While you are waiting for the court to decide your application, the court can give you an immediate order called the PROTECTION ORDER. This has the same effects as the Safety Order. It is intended to last until the courts decide on your case. In exceptional circumstances the court can grant an INTERIM BARRING ORDER which is an immediate order removing the violent person from the family home. If an interim barring order is issued then by law the court has to meet within 8 days to decide on issuing a Barring Order.
APPLING FOR PROTECTION
You can apply for protection under the law if you come within one of the categories below:
- MARRIED COUPLES: A married person can apply for protection against abuse by their spouse.
- CO-HABITING COUPLES: Where couples are not married to each other but living together, one partner can apply for protection from abuse from the other partner. If you have been living with your partner for 6 months during the past year, you can apply for a Safety Order. If you have been living with your 6 months out of the last 9 months you can get a Barring Order, unless the abusive partner owns the family home in full, or has a greater ownership rights than you do.
- PARENTS: A parent can apply for protection from abuse by their own child if the child is over 18 and not suffering from a disability. You can get a Barring Order, unless the adult child owns the home in full, or has greater owner rights than you do. You can also get a Safety Order even if a Barring Order isn't an option.
- OTHERS LIVING TOGETHER: You can apply for protection against abuse by someone over 18 who you are living with if the court decides that your relationship is not primarily based on a contract. For example, two relatives living together could be covered. If you come within this heading, the courts will be able to give you a Safety Order even if a Barring Order is not available. This requires a separate application.
- CHILDREN: You can apply for a legal order either because of violence towards you, towards your child, or towards a child who you are looking after, or towards someone 18 who is suffering from a disability.
THE HEALTH SERVICE EXECUTIVE may in special circumstances seek protection on your behalf.
HOW LONG WILL A COURT ORDER LAST?
In the District Court a Safety Order can last up to 5 years and a Barring Order up to 5 years. These orders can be renewed in certain circumstances.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ORDER IS BROKEN?
If you are granted a court order and the abuser breaks it that is a crime. The Gardaí can arrest and charge that person.
WHERE DO I GET FURTHER HELP OR INFORMATION?
Contact your local Gardaí Station 042 9335577. For legal assistance you can contact a private solicitor or the Legal Aid Board on 042 9330448. The District Court Office in your area will also be able to help you in relation to your application. The number for the District Court Clerk is 042 9392350.