Jason Poole, Fiona O'Loughlin and Jim O'Callaghan speaking to the media about the Sex Offenders (Coercive Control) (Amendment) Bill 2023 this afternoon. Jane Matthews/The Journal
Domestic Violence

New Bill seeks to establish register for those convicted of domestic violence

The Bill proposes requiring those with domestic violence convictions to inform gardaí of their whereabouts and if they start a new relationship.

A NEW BILL which proposes creating a domestic violence register that would allow women with concerns to ask an Garda Síochána for information about a partner’s violent past has been brought to the Seanad. 

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin and Deputy Jim O’Callaghan launched the Sex Offenders (Coercive Control) (Amendment) Bill this afternoon. 

The Bill proposes requiring those with domestic violence convictions to inform gardaí of their whereabouts and if they start a new relationship.

It would be similar to the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as ‘Clare’s Law’, which was introduced in the UK in 2014. It enables police to disclose information to a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse about their partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

However, such a model may not be able to operate in Ireland due to GDPR issues.  

If passed, the new law would be named after Jennifer Poole, a 24-year-old mother-of-two who was murdered by her former partner, Gavin Murphy, on 17 April 2021. 

Jennifer’s brother, Jason Poole, also worked on the proposed Bill with O’Loughlin and O’Callaghan.

Jennifer was unaware that Murphy had a history of domestic violence, having previously assaulted a former partner with a knife. Her brother thinks that had she been aware of that, she may still be alive today. 

“When Jason – and Jason has done incredible work in this area – looked into it, he realised that if in Ireland, we had legislation that was introduced in the UK in 2014 in terms of having that information, and if red flags began to show, as they had indeed done in Jennifer’s case, then we have a situation where Jennifer would possibly be alive today,” O’Loughlin said today.

In Ireland, 256 women have died violently at the hands of men since 1996. Of those, 87% died at the hands of a man that they knew. 186 women died in their own homes.

Since Jennifer’s murder, 18 women have died violently in the State. 

river (52) Jennifer Poole was murdered in 2021.

Speaking to the media this afternoon, Jason Poole said: “For me and for my family, today is a day of hope that our sister, our absolute amazing sister, has her voice heard with this Bill. That other people won’t die at the hands of perpetrators like she did, and the women that have come after her.

“We’ve seen from a recent report carried out by the guards in July that 126 domestic violence cases are being reported a day. That is way, way too many, and a lot of these are perpetrators who have a history of domestic violence,” he said.

He thanked O’Loughlin and O’Callaghan for their work on the Bill, and for “allowing Jennifer’s legacy to be heard”.

“Her voice is gone, but we’ll never stop fighting for Jennifer and I suppose today is an opportunity to bring that step one more,” he added.

“I hope that the Minister and the Department of Justice get behind Fiona’s Bill and really take this serious. If we want to have action, here’s an opportunity now to take one step forward and protect the women of Ireland into the future.”

GDPR concerns

O’Loughlin told the media she was aware that the “right to ask and the right to know” model may not work in Ireland due to legal implications. 

“There is a provision in the Bill that when it is enacted, that the Minister within six months would produce a report in relation to the right to ask and the right to know,” she said.

“This is something that has been introduced in the UK. Obviously, Government will have more resources to be able to look at that but when we looked at that ourselves when we were drafting it, we were informed that there was GDPR issues.

“We accept that, but we do want the Minister to commission a report with all of the available expertise to see if that is something that we can do in this country, so we are providing for that within the Bill to be produced at a later stage.”

She said it is very clearly contained in the Bill that An Garda Síochána would know and that once a person goes on to the register, that they have a duty to inform Gardaí in their local jurisdiction if they move address.

“So if there are red flags, that the individual who was in the intimate relationship… or a family member can go and then the Gardaí would have discretion in terms of pointing out or telling the person [of the conviction].”

O’Callaghan added: “We can provide for it in legislation in terms of specifying that there’s an obligation on the person convicted to bring that to the attention of Gardaí if they enter a new relationship. That’s probably the most secure way of doing it.”