Clare Senator Tony Mulcahy has called on the Government to bring forward domestic violence legislation this year.
Speaking in the Seanad, the Shannon Senator said he was speaking on behalf of “the many thousands of victims and victims-to-be who are out there and looking for a permanent solution in this area.”
In response to Senator Mulcahy’s call, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the Government is “committed to the introduction of consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a way that provides protection to victims.”
Minister Fitzgerald added: “The draft general scheme of the legislation is being finalised in my Department. It is intended to introduce approximately eight new sections to strengthen the legislation. We are consolidating the legislation to date. It is important that we would have one consolidated piece of legislation rather than the various Acts introduced in the past. My intention is that the draft general scheme will be considered by Government shortly after Easter.
“Following approval by the Government of the general scheme of the Bill, I will forward it to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny. That will give an opportunity for further consultation with stakeholders on the Bill, following on from their inputs into the joint committee’s hearings on domestic and sexual violence in February 2014. My aim is that the Bill will be enacted this year,” she saiid.
In response Senator Mulcahy said: “We have to do this this year. The Minister knows it is an issue that is close to my heart. It is not a criticism of the Garda but an observation of its recording system. It is only 70 miles to Newry where the PSNI do it differently. I sent a template of that to the Garda Commissioner and to the Minister’s office last week. I made the point at the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence that the scene of the crime is the first place we must record the right information, and that is not happening. In terms of the women, children and men in this situation, we need to record the information properly, and the DASH system used by the PSNI is from where we need to start. The legislation on punishments and so on can come in at the back end but I would hope the template I sent would be put in place in a pilot programme. I have no doubt the Garda Commissioner takes this matter seriously, and I welcome last week’s changes also.”
Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: “The Commissioner has now reorganised the structure of the force’s approach to domestic violence with the appointment of the chief superintendent to oversee the new child protection, domestic violence and human exploitation unit under the auspices of the national support service. The operational points the Senator makes are critical and I have no doubt that given the findings on crime investigation in the Garda Inspectorate report, that matter will be followed up by An Garda Síochána not just with regard to domestic violence but equally with regard to the investigation of other serious crimes. That is a very real issue for the force to examine. I will examine the material the Senator sent me on initiatives being taken in other forces and I will ask An Garda Síochána for a response to that.”