Ireland signs Istanbul Convention combating violence against women

Frances Fitzgerald TD

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD has today welcomed the signature by Ireland of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

The Convention was signed by ambassador Peter Gunning, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the Council of Europe on behalf of Ireland at the Council of Europe Offices in Strasbourg today.

Minister Fitzgerald said: “Domestic violence is a terrible crime which should have no place in 21st Century Ireland.

“Regrettably, domestic violence persists and what is more stark is that too many incidents of domestic violence still go unreported. Too many victims are afraid to come forward.”

“Today marks an important milestone for all those who have campaigned for better protections and supports for victims of domestic violence.”

She added: “The signing today by Ireland of the Istanbul Convention reaffirms the commitment of Government to foster a culture and to implement meaningful changes which can help reduce the incidence of domestic violence, better support victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Violence against women is a societal problem and the Istanbul Convention is an important instrument in tackling that problem.

“While the signing of the Istanbul Convention is a significant step, it is only a step on a much more substantial journey. I recently received Government approval for an Action Plan for implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Ireland. This outlines the steps required of Ireland to fully ratify the Istanbul Convention in due course.”

Current Irish legislation and administrative practice already implements many of the provisions contained in the Istanbul Convention and the Minister today facilitated a consultation with the community and voluntary sector on the actions agreed for the next Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, which will incorporate the actions as set out in the Action Plan under the Istanbul Convention.

The Minister explained that the multi-annual Action Plan outlines a range of additional legislative and administrative actions necessary to enable Ireland to ratify the Convention and provides timescales for implementation.

Actions contained in the plan include:

· A range of legislative measures including the new Domestic Violence Bill and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill;

· Provision of education and training of public sector staff involved in this area;

· Development and delivery of training for legal professionals;

· Implementation of co-ordinated, integrated national helpline service provision for responding to domestic and sexual violence

· Development of a risk assessment matrix by An Garda Síochána

The new Domestic Violence Bill, which is currently being drafted, will improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence, most critically for those victims in crisis situations and will also make the courts process easier for victims of domestic violence.

The principal improvements proposed in the bill are as follows:

· Access to an interim barring order for 8 working days in an emergency or crisis situation will be extended. The person will no longer have to have a greater or equal property interest in the property from which the perpetrator is being barred.

· A victim will be able to bring a friend, family member or support worker into court to support her or him during proceedings.

· It will be possible for a victim to give evidence by televisual link to avoid the risk of intimidation by the perpetrator or an associate.

· The court will be able to appoint an expert to ascertain the views of a child where an order is sought on behalf of, or will partly relate to, the child.

· There will be restrictions on the categories of person allowed to be in court during these proceedings, so that the victim will not have to give evidence, potentially of a distressing nature, before a large number of strangers.

· The Courts Service will be required to give information to the victim on referrals to support services.

· The anonymity of the victim, dependants and of the perpetrator will be protected in criminal proceedings for breaches of orders, other than where the victim chooses not to be anonymous. This provision is intended to protect the privacy of a victim. However, the media will be able to report on these proceedings, providing that they respect the obligations concerning anonymity.

· It will be possible to bar a perpetrator from communicating with the victim electronically

· Provisions on domestic violence will be brought together in one piece of legislation to make the legislation easier to use.

The new Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill, which will be published shortly seeks to put victims at the heart of the Justice system. The Bill will introduce, for the first time, statutory rights for victims of crime.

Click here to see the Istanbul Convention Action Plan

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