Domestic Violence Bill 2017: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 148, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matters, therefore, which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated a proposed grouping. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Before we commence, I draw Members' attention to a typographic error in amendment No. 22 in the numbered list of amendments. The Bill as printed is correct. Sections referred throughout the text as sections 33, 39 or 40 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 were incorrectly entered as sections 33, 37 and 38 when producing the amendment list.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I am very pleased to be back in the Seanad for what I hope will be the concluding Stages of one of the most important pieces of legislation this House or these Houses will enact this year. In anticipation of a concluding debate on the 24 amendments in six groups, I acknowledge the participation, leadership and involvement of the former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, both of whom have joined us this afternoon. I acknowledge their role in bringing this important legislation to its current state. I thank them for their leadership and for ensuring that what we have after a lengthy debate is a very fine piece of legislation. I hope that over the next period of time, we can proceed through the amendments. I would be happy to take Senators through the amendments that have been made in the Dáil and for which I am seeking the approval of the Seanad.

Group 1 comprises amendments Nos. 1, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 20. These are technical drafting amendments to improve the clarity of the provisions of the Bill. Amendment No. 1 amends section 2 by the insertion of a definition of civil proceedings under the Act, which is the term used throughout the Bill. This definition, which was included in the 1996 Act, was inadvertently omitted from section 2 of the Bill as published.

The purpose of amendments Nos. 6 and 7 is to improve the clarity of section 9 regarding the matter of applications for emergency barring orders. Amendment No. 11 is a technical amendment to improve the clarity of section 23(1) of the Bill, which provides for the geographic jurisdiction of the District Court and Circuit Court in civil proceedings under the Bill. The amendment makes it clear that the jurisdiction of the District Court under the Bill can be exercised now by any judge assigned to the relevant district.

Regarding amendment No. 12, the deletion of section 23(3) of the Bill was necessary to ensure compliance with the principle that the District Court exercises jurisdiction by reference to districts. This principle has been the subject of case law in the Supreme Court since the 1996 Act was enacted. Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are technical amendments to improve the clarity of sections 25 and 27, which relate to civil proceedings under the Bill.

Amendment No. 17 relates to section 39 of the Bill as passed by the Seanad, which provides for a new offence of forced marriage. The section will allow criminal proceedings to be brought in Ireland for forced marriage offences committed by Irish citizens or residents anywhere outside the State. This will be subject to a requirement known as dual criminality. The act must also be an offence in the place where it was originally committed. Offences committed outside the State on Irish-registered ships or aircraft can also be prosecuted within this jurisdiction.

The new subsections 9 and 10 will ensure that criminal proceedings may not be brought in this State for a forced marriage offence where criminal proceedings have already been determined in another country in respect of the same act. These are standard provisions in legislation where provision is made for jurisdiction for offences committed outside the jurisdiction of this State. Amendment No. 20 will ensure that the transitional provisions will apply to all civil proceedings under the 1996 Act that have been commenced but have not been determined when Part 2 of this Bill dealing with court proceedings comes into operation. This will ensure that there is no uncertainty about the continuity of applications for the variation or discharge of orders under the 1996 Act and any appeals relating to orders under that Act that are under way when Part 2 of this Bill is commenced.