Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society. Violence and abusive behaviour from a family member is unacceptable and illegal and there are appropriate legal remedies and help available to you if you fear for your own safety or welfare or the safety or welfare of your children as a result of the behaviour of a family member.
Ken Heffernan, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor, is experienced in dealing with these issues and can apply the legal requirements set out below to your particular case to advise you appropriately for your circumstances whether you are in Cork or elsewhere in Ireland.
The Domestic Violence Act, 1996 gives Gardai the power to arrest and prosecute a violent family member and this can be used in order to provide immediate assistance.Under the civil law, injunction protection is available under the Domestic Violence Act, 1996 by way of: a protection order, a safety order and a barring order.
A protection order
A protection order is a temporary order that can be granted if the court thinks there are reasonable grounds to believe the safety and welfare of the applicant is at risk pending the outcome of the application for the barring or safety order. With a protection order the abusive person is ordered not to use or threaten violence or molestation or put in fear or watch or beset the applicant, but the protection order does not order the abusive person to leave the home.
If the court believes that a protection order would not be sufficient to protect the applicant while waiting for a court hearing and there are reasonable grounds for believing that there is an immediate risk of significant harm to the applicant, then an interim barring order may be granted. An interim barring order is a temporary barring order which requires the abusive person to leave the home and which lasts until the full hearing for the barring order. Such an interim order can last no longer than 8 working days and will only be granted where there are exceptional circumstances requiring it as it will infringe on the abusive persons rights in relation to the property.
A safety order
A safety order is a court order which prohibits the abusive person from further violence or threats of violence. With a safety order the abusive person is ordered not to use or threaten violence or molestation or put in fear or watch or beset the applicant, but again the safety order does not order the abusive person to leave the home. A safety order can last up to 5 years and can be renewed by applying for a further order before the previous one has expired.
Barring order is a court order which requires the abusive person to leave the family home and prohibits them from returning. With a barring order the abusive person is ordered not to use or threaten violence or molestation or put in fear or watch or beset the applicant. A barring order can last up to 3 years and can be renewed by applying for a further order before the previous one has expired.
How do I qualify for an injunction order?
If you are married and can show the court that your spouse is violent in any way towards you or the children you may get an order against him or her no matter how long you have lived together and even if he or she owns all or most of the family home.
If you are cohabiting but not married, you can get an order against a violent partner if:
— you have been living together for six out of the previous twelve months (for a safety order) or for six out of the previous nine months (for a barring order).
— the abusive party does not own all or most of the house you are living in.
A parent can apply for protection against violence from their own non-dependent child if the child is over 18.
The Health Service Executive may seek a barring order against a violent adult on behalf of a child, whether or not that violent adult is married to the child’s parent.
Other people living together can also apply for injunction protection as the law allows two relatives or friends living together to apply for orders if required.
If the abusive person breaches the court order it is a criminal offence. If the order is broken the applicant in whose favour the order was made should call the Gardai, who can arrest and charge that person. A Garda may arrest without warrant a person who has broken an injunction order and a person who breaks an injunction order is liable to be fined and/or sent to prison for up to 12 months.
If you are not eligible for protection under the Domestic Violence Act, you should contact the Gardai if you are subjected to an assault or are the victim of threatening behaviour. The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, means it a criminal offence to beset or harass another person, so the Gardai may bring criminal charges against the abusive party.
If you are concerned about violence or abuse in your home, you should contact your local Garda Station. Other organisations may be able to offer assistance such as:
Amen is a voluntary organisation which provides a confidential helpline, a support service and information for male victims of domestic abuse and their children and you can contact Amen by phone at 046 9023718. Women’s Aid is a voluntary organisation providing support and information to women who are victims of domestic abuse and their children and you can contact the Women’s Aid helpline on 1800 341900.