Domestic violence refers to the use of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence, in close adult relationships. As well as physical violence it can also involve emotional abuse, the destruction of property, isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support, threats to others including children, stalking, and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.
Under the Domestic Violence Act 1996, Gardai (the Irish police force) have the power to arrest and prosecute a violent family member. Under the law there are two main kinds of protection available, a safety order and a barring order.
A safety order is an order of the court which prohibits the violent person from further violence or threats of violence. It does not oblige the person to leave the family home. If the person is not living with you it prohibits them from watching or being near your home. A safety order can last up to 5 years.
A barring order is an order which requires the violent person to leave the family home. The order also prohibits the person from further violence or threats of violence, and from watching or being near your home. A barring order can last up to 3 years.
To get a barring order or a safety order you must attend a District Court hearing. While you are waiting for the court to hear your application, the court can give you an immediate order called a protection order. The protection order has the same effect as a safety order. In exceptional circumstances the court can grant an interim barring order. This is an immediate order, requiring the violent person to leave the family home.
The safety order or the barring order can be renewed by applying for a further order before the previous one has expired.
The court will grant an order where it believes that your safety or welfare, or the safety or welfare of a dependant, requires that an order is granted. Under the legislation, welfare includes both physical and psychological welfare.
If you are married or in a civil partnership, and you can show the court that your spouse/civil partner is violent in any way towards you or the children, you can get a barring or safety order against them no matter how long you have lived together and even if they own most or all of the house.
If you have lived together in an intimate and committed relationship you can get a safety order against a violent partner. You can also get a safety order against a person with whom you have had a child but are not living with or have never lived with the person.
You can get a barring order against a violent partner if you have been living together in an intimate and committed relationship for six out of the previous nine months and your partner does not own most or all of the house you are living in.
A parent can apply for a barring or safety order against domestic violence from their own child if their child is over 18. You cannot get a barring order if your child owns all or most of the house you are living in.
Others living together, for example, two relatives, can apply for a safety order.
The Child and Family Agency may seek a safety or barring order against a violent adult on behalf of a child, whether or not that violent adult is married to the child's parent.
The law in Ireland strictly provides that anyone who contravenes a safety, barring (or interim barring) or protection order is guilty of an offence. Furthermore, if someone prevents you or your dependents from entering or remaining in a place to which the order relates (while the barring or interim barring order is in effect), they are also guilty of an offence.
The above offences under the Domestic Violence Act 1996 are punishable by a Class B fine and/or a prison term of 12 months. These penalties are set down in Section 17 of the Domestic Violence Act, 1996.
If you are concerned about violence in your home, you should contact your local Garda Station. Members of the Gardai are specially trained to deal with these situations and can offer advice, information and assistance.
Your local Citizens Information Centre can give you information about organisations that will provide you with support. For example, two such organisations are Women's Aid and Amen Support Services.
Women's Aid is a voluntary organisation providing support and information to women and their children who are being physically, emotionally and sexually abused in their own homes. If you are a woman living in a violent situation, you should contact the Women's Aid helpline on 1800 341900.
Amen Support Services is a voluntary organisation which provides a confidential helpline, a support service and information for male victims of domestic abuse. You can contact Amen Support Services by phone at (046) 902 3718.
Further information on domestic and sexual violence as well as information on local and national support services is available on the website of Cosc - The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.
To apply for a barring order or a safety order you must go to your local District Court Office. If you live in the Dublin Area you must go to the Dublin District Family Law Office (see 'Where to apply' below). However, you can go to the Dublin District Court Offices in Swords if it is closer to you.
When you get to the District Court Office, the Court staff will identify the forms you need to make your application. You do not need a solicitor to make an initial application, but it is recommend you have legal representation for a full court hearing. You must bring bring proof of your identity, such as a passport or driver's licence. You should mention any evidence you have for the full hearing, including reports from your GP, hospital or the Gardaí.
If you are applying for a barring order or a safety order the court clerk will arrange a court date for a court hearing. You will be given your summons for the court hearing at the time of your application. A summons will be sent to the respondent by ordinary post. The respondent is the person you need to be protected from or want barred from your home.
While you are waiting to go to court to get your barring order or safety order, you can get a protection order or an interim barring order immediately. If you want a protection order or an interim barring order the District Court Judge will hear your case on the day you make your application for a barring order or safety order.
If you do not want a protection order or an interim barring order immediately, you can seek one at any time before your case is heard for a barring or safety order.
When you get your barring order, safety order, protection order or interim barring order you show it to the Gardai in your local Garda Station. Do not give them your order (you can allow them to take a photocopy). A copy of your order will be sent to the Superintendent of your local Garda Station by registered post the following day.
A safety order, barring order, interim barring order or protection order takes effect from the time the respondent is notified of the order. This can be done verbally, together with the production of a copy of the order. If the respondent is in court when the order is made the respondent is considered to be notified. A copy of the order will be sent to the respondent by ordinary post. In some cases, the Judge may direct the Gardai 'to serve' the order on the respondent . This means the Gardai will hand the order directly to the respondent.
You can find more information on barring and safety orders on the Courts Service website.
To find the contact details for your local District Court Office you should contact:
15-24 Phoenix Street North
Tel:+353 (0)1 8886000
East Essex Street
Tel:+353 (0)1 888 6348
Fax:+353 (0)1 671 7903
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.