That Dáil Éireann,
the grave threat to life and limb and to the mental health and quality of life of women, children and men posed by domestic violence is undermining the fabric of our society and our belief in equality;
an estimated one in five Irish women experiences domestic violence at some point in her life;
of 126 women violently killed since 1996, 81 were killed in their home and just under 50% of victims whose cases have concluded were killed by their partner or ex partner;
in 2003 on average more than 23 incidents of domestic violence were recorded by gardaí each day compared with an average of 11 other assaults recorded;
more than a third of all calls to the Women's Aid national phone help-line went unanswered due to inadequate funding in 2005;
women are 70% more likely to be raped, severely assaulted or murdered after they access the legal system and attempt to leave their abuser and therefore victim safety and offender accountability must be at the centre of every intervention; and
there is an unjustifiable shortage of refuges and other front line provisions;
an effective sanctioning system is essential if the incidence of domestic violence is to be reduced and therefore law enforcement bodies and agencies involved in the administration of justice must prioritise the prosecution of domestic violence crimes on indictment where possible rather than simply as breaches of orders;
the variation in Garda practice across the State and within stations is a serious problem and can impede women from making complaints or even undermine the cases that are brought forward, and therefore the existing Garda policy on domestic violence and practice must become subject to monitoring, support and supervision to ensure it at least achieves the level of response expected and set down by that policy;
consideration should be given to the appointment of a commissioner within the Garda Síochána tasked with ensuring domestic violence is treated as a serious criminal matter, and domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse crimes should be named as crime priorities in the Garda annual policing plans;
greater investment should be made in specialised training and ongoing in service training for gardaí given the distinct nature of crimes of domestic and sexual violence;
guidelines should be introduced detailing criteria for the granting of safety, protection and barring orders, as should regular information seminars for the Judiciary on the dynamics and impact of domestic violence, the latest international research into effectively stopping domestic violence, and responding to the needs of victims, children and offenders;
all key agencies, including the HSE, probation service, Courts Service and housing authorities, should be obliged to develop and implement, in conjunction with the expert agencies, a domestic violence policy and training to govern their work;
calls on the Government to:
make the necessary provisions for the introduction of an effective and consistent sanctioning system;
publish and schedule time for legislation amending the Domestic Violence Act 1996 as a matter of urgency, including amendments to:
remove the restrictions caused by residency requirements;
list the name of the agency-practitioner responsible for taking sworn information, for serving orders and/or summons and providing evidence to the court regarding the response of the respondent;
provide for the immediate communication to the local Garda station of the granting-extension of an order for priority entry onto the PULSE system;
provide for applicants for orders to automatically be given a copy of their sworn information;
provide for the immediate seizure of any firearm legally held by a person against whom an order has been granted; and
clearly specify the data protection provisions governing the sharing of information by agencies;
re-introduce and resource a role for the probation service in family courts producing safety reports and risk assessments to inform judges' decisions;
ensure the supervision of child access where necessary to protect against further abuse;
make provisions for the extension across the State of the inter-agency work model developed by the NDVIA and the systemic changes achieved by it in the pilot areas of Dún Laoghaire and Bray District Courts;
prioritise and guarantee core funding to frontline services including refuges, outreach, counselling, court accompaniment and transitional housing on a multi annual basis to allow for the strategic development and delivery of services; and
introduce measures to overcome language difficulties and other barriers, including the prospect of deportation, experienced by immigrants, ethnic minorities and others attempting to access services and protections.
Tá mé ag roinnt ama leis na Teachtaí Ferris, Connolly, Catherine Murphy agus Boyle. Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh an rún seo a chur os comhair an Tí. Tá súil agam go mbeidh, ag deireadh na díospóireachta, na Teachtaí ar fad sa Teach ag tacú leis agus go dtarraingeoidh an Rialtas siar an leasú scannalach a chuir sé os a chomhair.
De shíor bíonn an Rialtas seo, an tAire Dlí agus Cirt go háirithe, ag ligean air go bhfuil sé crua i dtaobh coireanna ach níl ann ach posers. Ní gá ach smaoineamh ar na mná, na páistí agus na fir a bheas ionsaithe ina mbaile, ina leaba nó ina gcistin anocht, agus gan ach fíor-bheagán déanta ag an Rialtas faoi. Tá teipthe ar an Rialtas seo agus na Rialtais roimhe an tosaíocht chuí a thabhairt do choireanna foréigin theaghlaigh. Dá mbeadh sin tarlaithe, bheadh muinín acu siúd atá buailte, ciaptha agus céasta ina dteach cónaithe dul go dtí na gardaí cosaint a lorg agus a gcás a thógaint.
This Government and successive Governments have failed to treat crimes of domestic violence with the priority they require. If they had there would be no need for this motion. The Government amendment is an insult to the victims, their families and the organisations that must deal with the effects of domestic violence. Victims should have faith that the judicial system, from the gardaí to the courts, would protect them, defend them and ensure that they, as victims, are paramount. That is not the case and that is why many victims continue in abusive situations. That is why many women and men put up with the daily hidings, the physical and psychological abuse, and why they lie to family and friends about their injuries. They are afraid for themselves and their kids and feel all alone. If this motion is taken seriously they should no longer feel that society does not care.
Gangland crime and anti-social behaviour are popular topics for media coverage and have prompted no end of pontificating and endless legislative proposals from the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, most of which are no more than soundbites or are ineffective and unnecessary. However, this most prevalent of serious crimes — domestic violence — rarely features at all on the Government's agenda. Where is the Government's plan to secure convictions against these most violent of offenders? Where is the Tánaiste's 50 point proposal? Is it any wonder the justice system fails to treat domestic violence as the serious crime it is if the Government fails to do so?
The following statistics, both national and international, gathered by Women's Aid, along with those detailed in the motion, give an indication of the scale and extent of crimes of domestic violence. Nearly a quarter of violent sexual offenders against women are partners or ex-partners. One in eight pregnant women experiences abuse. On average a woman will be assaulted 35 times by her partner or ex-partner before reporting it to the police, an indictment in itself. Domestic violence has the highest rate of repeat offending.
Our motion calls for an effective and consistent sanctioning system, essential if offenders are to be held accountable for their crimes and if the incidence of such crimes is to be substantially reduced. A clear message must be sent to domestic violence offenders that there will be serious consequences for their actions.
The gardaí and DPP, therefore, should treat domestic violence as they would other violent crimes. Wherever possible, they should build cases to try crimes of domestic violence on indictment, laying charges such as assault, assault causing harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm. Indictable offences carry much weightier penalties, including custodial sentences, than would be the case where offenders are merely pursued for breaching a civil protection or safety order or where, in the first instance, an application for an order is the sole judicial response to crimes of violence which have already been committed.
Garda practice must be standardised, with the same recording method, approach to complaints and urgency as for other violent crime. There must be the same thorough approach to investigating the crime and charging the perpetrator as there would be if the Minister had been attacked.
Garda domestic violence policy must be monitored, supported and applied consistently. We can no longer tolerate gardaí asking an offender to go for a walk to cool off or sending a woman home from the station to sort things out with her husband herself. Are they mad? Who would ever dream of asking a victim of a common assault to go find the stranger who mugged him and sort it out himself? Who would ask somebody who attempted murder to go away and cool down?
The Garda Síochána policing plan for 2007 must be revised to explicitly name domestic violence and sexual violence as policing priorities. The current policing plan gives priority focus to terrorism, road traffic law and illegal immigration but not domestic and sexual violence. This telling deficiency must be rectified in the plan for 2008 and in future Garda plans.
The positive news is that in today's Ireland the incidence of domestic violence can be greatly reduced and victims can be afforded the support and protection they need. All that is required is political will, the political will to lead, to legislate and to resource. That is what the Sinn Féin motion is all about. It was drawn up on the basis of consultation with the expert organisations working in the field, some of which made impressive and compelling contributions to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights last month. These organisations work in the field alongside and in support of victims; they are well placed to identify the legislative, systems and funding shortcomings that inhibit the achievement of victim safety and offender accountability. The motion builds on their learning.
This Government, along with the rest of the House, must lead by making it clear that domestic violence is a serious crime and that it will be treated as such. We must legislate to give the relevant agencies, including the gardaí, the DPP and the probation service, clear statutory roles and responsibilities and eliminate overly-restrictive requirements which prevent certain victims from accessing legal protections. We must resource the front line services that are working on a shoestring to meet the needs of victims. One extremely dedicated worker in the Dublin 12 domestic violence service worked in the absence of employment security on successive contracts lasting a month, three weeks and then three months due to the ad hoc nature of funding available to this crucial community service. The Government must guarantee core funding to front line services on a multi-annual basis to allow for the strategic development and delivery of these essential supports.
Beidh mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Martin Ferris, ag leagan amach an gá le leasaithe reachtúla agus leasaithe chórais atá á moladh againn. Amárach déanfaidh an Teachta Seán Crowe an gá le gealltanais fad-téarmach maoinithe do na heagrais agus do na tionscnaimh atá dírithe ar an fhadhb mhór seo dár sochaí. Beidh an Teachta Arthur Morgan ag plé na teipe déileáil le lóistín éigeandálach, sealadach agus fad-téarmach atá de dhíth orthu siúd atá buailte ag foréigean teaghlaigh.
I urge everyone in this House to support our motion and I urge the Government to rethink its amendment and withdraw it. This is a criticism of this Government and other Governments but it is also a call for us to take this aspect of Irish society seriously and give it the priority required. Anyone who sits in advice clinics has met victims of domestic violence, has seen the fear in their eyes and told them to go the gardaí. They ask, however, who will protect them and what use a protection order is if the gardaí in the station do not support them.
I urge the Government to withdraw its amendment, give support to the motion and in particular to do something on this issue. The Government should give it priority, fund the organisations and support agencies. The message needs to go out from this House that we as legislators will be tough on domestic violence. We will tackle it head on to ensure that all the services are resourced properly.