Lawyers urged to keep challenging Northern Ireland courts on domestic abuse protections

Lawyers urged to keep challenging Northern Ireland courts on domestic abuse protections

Claire Edgar

Lawyers must continue to challenge the Northern Ireland courts to properly protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse, a prominent family lawyer has said.

Claire Edgar, family law partner at Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors, was among the speakers at The Bar of Northern Ireland’s recent conference on domestic abuse.

Ms Edgar, who is chair of the Belfast Area Domestic Abuse Working Group, provided attendees with an overview of how the Family Homes and Domestic Violence (NI) Order 1998 currently provides protection to victims of domestic violence.

She also explored the legal developments brought about in a number of judicial review challenges regarding non-molestation orders, which looked at the courts’ power to extend emergency non-molestation orders; the hearing of non-molestation order cases where there are linked criminal proceedings; and how appeals are dealt with when an application for an emergency non-molestation order is refused.

Speaking after the conference, Ms Edgar said: “It was a pleasure to be asked to speak at a conference focusing on coercive control, a phrase that many of us until recent years had seldom heard but one which has now become engrained in my daily practice as a lawyer working in the sphere of domestic abuse.

“There can be no doubt that the introduction of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021 and the criminalisation of non-physical abusive behaviour is a huge milestone in tackling domestic abuse within our society and protecting victims.”

She added: “Despite the global pandemic and several periods of national lockdown, it is clear through the judicial review challenges that there have been welcome efforts made by lawyers, the judiciary and legislators alike to challenge and protect the civil law surrounding domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.

“We must continue to challenge the courts on any perceived failure to provide protection to those who are suffering from domestic abuse and advocate on behalf of all victims to ensure they are granted the protections they so desperately need.”

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