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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Justice Committee
Should domestic violence be treated more seriously than public assault?
The Oireachtas Justice Committee thinks so.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHOULD be treated as seriously as public assault – if not more so, the Oireachtas Justice Committee has said.

The body has recommended that domestic violence, in itself, be made a crime. It also wants a wider definition of the term.

Interest groups have told the Committee that while assault is a crime whether committed inside or outside the home, public assault is often treated more seriously.

In a report released today, the Committee has called for domestic violence to be treated as being as serious, if not more serious, than many other forms of criminal and common law assault – due to the psychological and emotional effects it has on the victim.

The group also wants Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to consider requiring An Garda Síochána to take statements regarding a complaint of domestic violence, including the compiling of a report of what the force itself has witnessed at the time the complaint is made.

This could include, if the victim permits, the taking of photographs and the immediate arrangement of a medical assessment of the victim.

The Committee wants Fitzgerald to look into introducing two additional and more serious offences of marital assault and domestic assault, to be treated and punished more severely than the existing offence of assault under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

The group thinks that psychological abuses such as stalking and harassment within a marital or domestic context should also lead to a greater punishment than at present.


The Committee is also calling for a domestic violence unit to be set up within the courts and a review of the ‘in camera’ rule, with a view to forming an appropriate reporting system for family law cases.

It also wants consideration to be given to the establishment of a domestic violence register to catalogue details of convicted abusers.

Anne Ferris, Vice Chair of the Justice Committee, said that the report is “is an attempt to highlight some of the points raised and to expose the terrible and truly shocking situations some people endure on a daily basis”.

We hope that this process, in some way, brings a little comfort to the victims of domestic and sexual violence. The intention of this report is to present recommendations that are robust and victim-focused.

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said that the evidence the Committee received while compiling the report clearly highlighted that “domestic and sexual violence is a damaging scourge on Irish society”.

Not only does this issue concern physical violence, but also psychological violence and emotional violence. It plunges families into turmoil, destroys homes and most significantly, destroys lives.

“In addressing this, the State needs to ensure it is addressed as far as the law will allow, with the best supports made available to victims and the toughest possible sentences served on the perpetrators.”

SAFE Ireland, a group that represents 40 domestic violence services across Ireland, welcomed the recommendations made by the committee.

Caitriona Gleeson, the organisation’s Programme and Communications Manager, said: “We are delighted that the Committee has recognised the need to strengthen legislation so that domestic violence is not treated as a lesser offence by our system and society.

“This unfortunately has been the experience of thousands of women throughout Ireland for many decades.”

Read: A Week in the Family Court: Domestic violence applications rose by 5% in 2013

Read: Why are there no refuges for male victims of domestic violence?

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