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Coercive control and psychological abuse now an offence under new law

Marriage for people who are under 18 has also been repealed under the new legislation.

Image: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

A NEW DOMESTIC violence law, which comes into effect today, will see the creation of a new offence of coercive control.

This is deemed as psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day activities.

Announcing the commencement of the Domestic Violence Act, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said the new legislation will improve the protections available to victims of domestic violence under both civil and criminal law.

The new law also includes measures to recognise an intimate relationship as an aggravating factor in domestic violence cases.

Additional improvements to the law contained in the Act also gives an extensive but non-exhaustive list of factors that courts must consider when dealing with applications for domestic violence orders.

Safety orders will also be available to persons who are in intimate relationships but who are not cohabiting and victims of domestic violence will now be able to apply for an emergency barring order, lasting for eight working days, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm.

Emergency barring orders may be granted even if the victim has no legal or beneficial interest in the property or has an interest which is less than the perpetrator’s.

It will be possible for victims to give evidence by live television link both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders. A victim will have the possibility of being accompanied to court by a person of his or her choice to provide support during a civil hearing.

The court will now also be able to seek the views of children where a safety or barring order is sought on behalf of a child. 

The Act also provides for the creation of a new criminal offence of forced marriage.

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The legislative provisions that enable persons who are aged under 18 to marry have also been repealed.

Speaking about the new law, the minister said domestic violence can have devastating physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims as well as society as a whole.

“For too long, domestic violence has been seen primarily as physical abuse. The new offence of coercive control recognises that the effect of non-violent control in an intimate relationship can be as harmful to victims as physical abuse because it is an abuse of the unique trust associated with an intimate relationship.

“Another important provision will ensure that an intimate relationship between victim and perpetrator must be regarded as an aggravating factor in sentencing for a wide range of offences. This new provision sends a message that society will no longer tolerate the appalling breach of trust committed by one partner against the other in an intimate context,” said Flanagan. 

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