The Government is totally committed to preventing and addressing domestic violence and the recently commenced Domestic Violence Act 2018 significantly strengthens the civil and legal protections available to victims.
It is important that frontline Gardaí understand the nature of this legislation in order to effectively respond to victims. Training is crucial in this regard. As you will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the training of the members and civilian staff of An Garda Síochána and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.
I am, however, informed by the Commissioner that a number of measures have been taken and further measures are underway to ensure frontline Gardaí have a solid understanding of the new legislation.
In preparation for the Domestic Violence Act 2018, which came into law on 1 January this year, a number of documents to support the introduction of the new Act were created and uploaded on to An Garda Síochána’s intranet portal, prior to the commencement of the Act. Every member of An Garda Síochána, of every rank, was emailed on how to access all of this information to ensure that all Gardaí had ample time to familiarise themselves with the act prior to its introduction.
The information that was uploaded to the portal included the following:
1. An extensive guidance document outlining the offences that remain in force from the previous Domestic Violence Act of 1996 but which have now been updated to reflect the changes in society, along with a number of new offences that were created including the offence of coercive control
2. Guidance documents including one on the Special Sitting of the District Court as per Section 24 of the Act in order to facilitate how to obtain an order outside of office hours when the court not sitting and the second on coercive control which was developed in conjunction with the office of the Director of Public prosecution.
3. Q & A document that anticipated questions that may be asked by members in relation to the new Act including information on the additional offences included in the new Act
4. Documents were also created that covered every Garda action at a Domestic Abuse call, post incident engagement guidelines, guidelines on the prosecution of orders and a vulnerable victims advisory document.
In addition, the following is also in the process of currently being implemented:
- Train-the-trainers training is currently taking place to cover the area of coercive control.
- As a result of the Train-the-trainers training the core Continuous Professional Development programme, which will run for the next two years and has been remodelled to reflect An Garda Síochána’s advanced knowledge on domestic abuse and the role that An Garda Síochána have when responding to domestic abuse incidents, will include training on the complexities of Domestic Abuse and the changes introduced in the new Act.
- Since June 2018 bi-monthly seminars have been held in the Garda College for all serving members regardless of rank to cover all aspects of domestic abuse. These seminars cover domestic abuse, data quality, legislation and multi-agency engagement.
The Garda National Protective Services Bureau are also liaising with the College of Policing in the UK, Lancaster University Law School and London Metropolitan Police in order to establish international best practice in this area and training requirements on the provisions of the new Act will be kept under review by Garda management.