Emergency measures needed to combat domestic abuse during Covid-19 emergency

29 April 2020

With alarming reports this week about increased levels of violence against women and children in the home, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has called on the Government to do more to protect victims of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 emergency.

Senator Bacik said:

“Although spending weeks staying at home is not easy for any of us, we know that for some, home is a very unsafe place. Reports this week from Women’s Aid and An Garda Síochána have confirmed an increase in the incidence of abusive behaviour at home since the introduction of restrictions aimed at countering the spread of Coronavirus.

“This is not just an issue here in Ireland; we know that concerns about increased levels of domestic violence have arisen in every country currently going through lockdown due to COVID-19. In other jurisdictions, different emergency measures have been introduced to offer greater protection to victims of abuse in the home. In Austria and Germany, for instance, police are authorised to issue emergency barring orders to exclude an abuser from the family home. In Western Australia, emergency legislation has been passed to extend the duration of protection orders during this crisis.

“Here in Ireland, we provided for the making of emergency barring orders through the Domestic Violence Act 2018. I commend the Gardai and the Courts Service for taking a proactive approach to protect and support victims through this public health emergency through measures like Operation Faoisimh. I support my colleague Deputy Sean Sherlock’s recent call on the Minister for Justice to take immediate steps to ensure frontline Gardaí are advised of the powers available to them under the 2018 Act to secure emergency barring orders from the courts when needed, based on evidence given by video link. These powers and procedures must be used proactively at this time.

“Families must also be protected in cases where removal of an abuser from the home is not possible. I echo Safe Ireland’s calls on the Minister for Social Protection to facilitate access to emergency rent supplement or other supports for women and children in need of immediate relocation for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency.

“Financial hardship, anxiety, reduced contact with others, confinement in the family home and so many other factors are putting those, predominantly women and children, who experience violence and abuse at home in even more danger than usual.

“Ireland must join other states in taking urgent action to mitigate against new threats to the safety of women and children posed by the COVID-19 emergency.”