Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (423)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

423. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice the protections in place for victims who have barring orders that are due to expire during the current lockdown; if there are regulations within the current public health guidelines regarding the possible return of a spouse to the family home during the level 5 restrictions; and if these have been conveyed to An Garda Síochána. [2630/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 makes provision for the issuance of a barring order which can be granted for a period of up to three years, and can be extended on application to the court before the order expires or on the expiration of the order.

The District Court Family Law courts are operating during current Level 5 restrictions where applications to renew domestic violence orders that are about to expire will be accepted. Parties concerned should contact their local court office in advance of the expiry.

I am not aware of any specific regulation such as the one referred to by the Deputy being outlined in the current public health guidelines, however I have stated previously, and continue to emphasise, that travel restrictions do not apply to persons who are at risk or are removing themselves from a domestic abuse situation. Both An Garda Síochána and my Department are publicising this to ensure victims are aware of this fact and know that Gardaí will support them at any checkpoint they encounter, regardless of their distance from home.

There is no doubt that restricted movement in the context of the pandemic poses an increased risk of domestic abuse, evidenced by figures reported by frontline services. This was a key concern for Government when considering the potential impact of restricting movements and in March, my Department developed an inter-agency plan which has prioritised tackling domestic abuse, raising awareness of the risks, as well as supporting victims during this period.

My department has provided additional resources, support, enforcement and services which will continue to be made available throughout the pandemic. Domestic abuse cases are being prioritised by the Guards, through Operation Faoiseamh, the Legal Aid Board and, as already mentioned, the Courts.

I also know that Gardaí continue to develop their specialist services in this area and the fact that Divisional Protective Services Units have now been rolled out nationwide is very welcome.