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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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Figures show rise in breaches of domestic violence court orders

Breaches of court orders are on the rise, but convictions for the offence were lower last year than in 2021.

FIGURES RELEASED BY the Gardaí show that in recent years there has been a rise in breaches of domestic violence related court orders including barring, interim barring, protection and safety orders. 

In 2018 there were 3035 incidents relating to court orders being breached reported t0 Gardaí. 

This escalated to 4,675 incidents in 2021, which rose once again to 4,741 incidents in 2022. 

Between January and May of this year, 1736 complaints on breaches of domestic violence related court orders were recorded. 

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd requested the figures from then Justice Minister Simon Harris. 

Commenting on the upwards trend in court orders being breached, O’Dowd called for tougher sentencing to be introduced for perpetrators of domestic violence and those who breach court orders “that are in place to protect their victims”. 

O’Dowd added that the rise in reports of orders being breached was matched by a rise in convictions most years – however there was a slight drop in convictions last year. 

530 convictions were made in 2021, which dropped to 502 in 2022. 

“183 convictions recorded in the first three months of this year indicate an upward trend in convictions again this year,” O’Dowd said. 

However, the figures provided by Minister Harris show that in over half of the cases that lead to prison court orders in 2021, the perpetrators received a suspended sentence and did no jail time for the offence. 

“However according to information provided by the Courts Service, an individual may have perpetrated more than one offence and received a prison sentence on one offence and a suspended sentence for another offence,” O’Dowd explained. 

The TD said that the rise in domestic violence reflected in the released figures is “extremely worrying, not to mention the horrific physical and emotional impact it has on victims and their families and the challenges they face in the aftermath”. 

The most commonly breached court order is a protection order. These are typically issued by courts when an applicant has applied for a barring or safety order. 

A protection order bars a respondent from using violence or threats of violence against the applicant, or molesting or putting them in fear if they are in the same house. 

It also prevents the respondent from watching or besetting the house where the applicant is living. 

This kind of court order usually expires once a court has decided whether to grant the applicant a barring or safety order (the former bans the respondent from attempting to enter the home). 

There has also been a year on year rise in the amount of general domestic violence reports made to Gardaí, which are recorded as “domestic – no offence identified”. 

In 2018 15,107 reports were made of this nature. Last year this figure rose to 27, 734. 

In the first three months of this year, 9,400 reports were made. 

Women’s Aid – one of Ireland’s leading organisations that works with victims of domestic violence – said that it received a record high number of domestic abuse reports last year. 

It warned that the system to support victims and survivors is under strain. 

The Women’s Aid annual report for 2022 revealed that almost 34,000 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and children made to the charity – representing a 16% increase on the previous year. 

It also found that 12 women died violently last year in Ireland, with five more women losing their lives in allegedly violent circumstances. 

Minister Harris said that combatting all forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence remains a priority for the Government, the now Justice Minister Helen McEntee and the Garda Commissioner. 

“Historically, people may have felt unable to come forward to report domestic violence, however An Garda Síochána and my Department continue to work hard to strengthen trust and confidence in the criminal justice system, so that victims can feel supported when reporting their experience.

“I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána prioritise and proactively respond to incidents of domestic abuse. There is now a Divisional Protective Services Unit in each Garda Division, meaning specialised teams are in place nationwide to engage with vulnerable victims in these most difficult cases,” he said. 

Harris added that Gardaí have introduced new mandatory domestic violence training for members of the force, as well as training for using the ‘Risk Evaluation Tool’ to ensure all vulnerable victims receive the service and supports they need. 

Minister McEntee has introduced legislative measures to increase penalties for domestic violence offences, and to protect victim’s of stalking and harassment. 


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