Safety orders, protection orders and barring orders in Ireland
Domestic violence refers to the use of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence, in an intimate relationship. As well as physical violence, domestic violence can also involve:
- emotional abuse
- the destruction of property
- controlling behaviour such as isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support
- threats to others including children
- control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and communication
On 1 January 2019, the Domestic Violence Act 2018 came into effect. It consolidates the law on domestic violence and provides for additional protections for victims of domestic violence described in the document below.
A new offence of coercive control of a spouse, civil partner or intimate partner also comes into force under the 2018 Act. Coercive control is a pattern of intimidation, humiliation and controlling behaviour that causes fear of violence or serious distress that has a substantial impact on the victim's day-to-day activities.
Under domestic violence legislation, the main kinds of protection available are safety orders and barring orders.
What is a safety order?
A safety order is an order of the court which prohibits the violent person (the respondent) from committing further violence or threats of violence. The respondent is not obliged to leave the home. If the person is not living with you, the safety order prohibits them from watching or being near your home and following or communicating (including electronically) with you or a dependent person. A safety order can last up to 5 years.
From 1 January 2019, people in an intimate relationship are eligible for safety orders. Previously couples had to cohabit to be able to get a safety order, but the 2018 Act has removed this requirement. The following people can apply for a safety order:
- Spouses and civil partners
- Parents with a child in common
- Partners in an intimate relationship (including cohabitants and dating partners)
- Parents of an abusive child if that child is over 18
- People residing with the respondent in a non-contractual relationship, such as two relatives living together
Former partners are also eligible, for example, a former spouse or cohabitant.
What is a protection order?
Between the time of making an application for a safety order (or barring order) and the court’s determination, there may be reasonable grounds for believing that the safety and welfare of you or of a dependent person is at risk. If so, the court can grant a protection order to prohibit the respondent from:
- Using or threatening to use violence
- If the person is not living with you, watching or being near your home
- Following or communicating with you or a dependent person
A protection order is temporary and only effective until the court hearing for the application for a safety order (or barring order).
What is a barring order?
A barring order requires the violent person to leave the home and prohibits the person from entering the home. The order also prohibits the person from further violence or threats of violence, watching or being near your home, or following or communicating (including electronically) with you or a dependent person. A barring order can last up to 3 years.
The following people can apply for a barring order:
- Spouses and civil partners
- Cohabitants who live in an intimate relationship (the applicant must satisfy the property test, that is, they must have an equal or greater interest in the property than the respondent)
- Parents when the abuser is a non-dependent child
What is an interim barring order?
Between the time of making an application for a barring order and the court’s determination, there may be reasonable grounds for believing that the safety and welfare of you or of a dependent person is at risk. If so, the court can grant a protection order (see above) or an interim barring order. An interim barring order is an immediate order. It requires the violent person to leave the home where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to you or a dependent person and a protection order would not be sufficient protection.
What is an emergency barring order?
The Domestic Violence Act 2018 provides for a new order called an emergency barring order. An emergency barring order requires the violent person to leave the home, and prohibits the person from entering the home. This is an immediate order where there is reasonable grounds to believe there is an immediate risk of significant harm to you or a dependent person.
Unlike an interim barring order, the applicant does not have to satisfy the property test to be able to get an emergency barring order. This means the applicant does not need to own, co-own or have their name on the lease of the property. An emergency barring order can last for a maximum of 8 working days. It prohibits the same behaviours as a barring order.
Applying for an order
To get a safety or barring 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.
In an emergency situation, the 2018 Act allows a member of the Gardaí to request that the Courts Service arrange a special out-of-hours sitting of the District Court for someone looking for an interim barring order, protection order or emergency barring order.
A safety order or barring order can be renewed by applying for a further order before the previous one expires.
The 2018 Act introduces a list of factors that the court can consider when deciding on an application for a domestic violence order (safety, protection or barring order). This list is not exhaustive but includes:
- history of violence by the respondent towards the applicant or any dependent person
- increase in severity or frequency of violence towards the applicant or their children
- exposure of children to violence inflicted by the respondent on the applicant or other child
- history of animal cruelty
- substance abuse (including alcohol), by the respondent, the applicant or a dependent person
- the age and state of health (including pregnancy) of the applicant or any
Spouses and civil partners
If you are married or in a civil partnership, and you can show the court that your spouse or 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 relationship you can get a safety order against a violent partner. You can also get a safety order against a person you have had a child with but are not living with or have never lived with.
You can get a barring order against a violent partner if you have been living together in an intimate relationship and your partner does not own most or all of the house you are living in. There is no minimum period of cohabitation required.
You can get an emergency barring order where there is reasonable grounds to believe there is an immediate risk of significant harm to you or a dependent even if you do not own, co-own or have your name on the lease.
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
Others living together, for example, two relatives, can apply for a safety order.
The Domestic Violence Act 2018 contains specific provisions for the protection of children including:
- Children can make their views known to the court where a safety or barring order is sought on behalf of, or will partly relate to, a child. The court can appoint an expert to assist the court to get the views of the child depending on the child’s age and maturity.
- When giving evidence in an application for a domestic violence order, a child cannot be cross-examined in person by the respondent or the applicant.
- Domestic violence orders relating to children remain in force until the order expires even after they reach the age of 18. Previously they expired when the child became 18 years old.
The Domestic Violence Act 2018 also amends the Civil Registration Act 2004 to remove the exemption for underage marriage. From 1 January 2019, the legal age requirement for marriage is 18 years. It is no longer possible to get a Court Exemption Order allowing a marriage to proceed if one or both parties are under 18 years.
Tusla - The Child and Family Agency
Tusla - 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.
What happens if an order is broken?
Anyone who breaks a safety order, protection order, barring order, interim barring order or emergency barring order is guilty of an offence. If the respondent prevents you or your dependants from entering or remaining in a place to which the order relates (while the order is in effect), this is also an offence.
The above offences under Section 33 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 are punishable by a class B fine, a prison term of 12 months, or both.
When the court is determining the sentencing for certain offences such as psychological, physical violence, sexual violence, coercive control and stalking, it is now considered an aggravating circumstance if the victim is or was a spouse, civil partner or in an intimate relationship with the offender. This means the court shall impose a sentence which is greater than would have been imposed because of the fact that the victim and perpetrator were in an intimate relationship. This provision is introduced by Section 40 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018.
If you are concerned about violence in your home, you should contact your local Garda station. Members of the Gardaí 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, abusive or controlling situation, you can contact the Women's Aid 24-hour helpline on 1800 341 900.
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 on (046) 902 3718.
Cosc - The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence has contact details for local, national and outreach support services.
How to get a safety or barring order
Most applications for domestic violence orders are made in the District Court. You can engage a solicitor to make an application on your behalf or you can make the application yourself. You may be entitled to legal aid.
The District Court Office staff will identify the forms you need to make your application. 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. The forms will be sent to the respondent so that the respondent can attend in court on the day of the hearing. You do not need a solicitor to make an initial application, but it is recommended that you have legal representation for a full court hearing.
If there is an emergency situation or while you are waiting to go to court to get a barring order or safety order, you can get a protection order, an interim barring order, or an emergency barring order if you or a dependent child is at immediate risk of significant harm. If there is no sitting of the District Court at the time when you wish to make such an application, a member of the Gardaí may request the Courts Service to arrange a special sitting of the District Court. 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 safety or barring order.
The decision of the court is produced in the form of a written document called an 'order'. If the respondent is in court when the order is made the respondent is considered to be notified and it is sent by the court office to the respondent by ordinary post. However, in the case of a protection order, interim barring order or emergency barring order the court usually directs that order be served on the respondent by a member of the Gardaí.
The court office will notify the Gardaí of the making of the order by sending a copy to the local Garda station by post. To avoid any delay in notifying the Gardaí you should call to the Garda station immediately after the order has been made, tell them of the making of the order and leave a copy with them (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.
Further information on making an application and preparing for a court hearing is available on the Courts Service website.
Where to apply
To find the contact details for your local District Court Office you should contact: