Thursday, 5 July 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
18. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice if he has satisfied himself with the powers available to the courts to grant sufficient remedy and appropriate orders when dealing with cases of domestic violence.
Mr. Burke: I am satisfied that the provisions of the Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) Act, 1981, are sufficient to enable the courts to provide  protection to spouses and their children from violence or threats of violence by the other spouse.
I am aware of a number of suggestions for change in the law in this area, which were aired by the Law Reform Commission in a consultation paper on child sexual abuse published in August 1989. These include proposals that would permit a health board to apply for a barring order in protection of a child and that would permit a barring order to be made against any member of the child's household. When the commission produce their final report, I will give careful consideration to any recommendations they may make involving changes in barring order law.
Mr. Flanagan: I am disappointed with the reply, having regard to the urgency of the problem. As the courts over the past eight years have interpreted the circumstances under which a barring order could be granted, would the Minister accept that the rules as applied by the courts are a little stringent and that consideration might be given to the concept of a protection order, something I believe was abandoned by the present Government rather suddenly last year? Would the Minister see any merit in having this concept? Would he see further merit in broadening the category of those persons entitled to apply for a barring order, having regard to the fact that at present we are dealing with the spouses? Would the Minister not consider allowing people apply for barring orders who may be cohabiting with each other? Would he not regard as desirable the protection of children who may be under threat of physical violence from people other than their parents living on a premises at a given time?
Mr. Burke: In relation to the powers of the courts generally, the courts have sufficient powers to provide protection for spouses and their children from violence and threats of violence. It is a matter for the courts themselves to determine how these powers should be exercised in  each individual case that comes before them.
In relation to the 1987 Bill published by the then Minister of State with responsibility for Women's Affairs, Deputy Fennell, this Bill when published was welcomed but opposition to it grew and a number of the agencies working in the area of family violence gradually formed a view that the Bill might leave victims worse rather than better protected. For example Womens Aid and the AIM group eventually came to the same view and I was swayed by their argument in relation to the reintroduction of that 1987 Bill. That is why it is not back in the Government programme for legislation.
I recognise that violence by a non-spouse is a problem and I accept the view expressed by the Deputy that there is a need for improvement in that area. I am hoping for an early response from the Law Reform Commission so that we can proceed with legislation in this area. I assure the Deputy it is not a delaying tactic. I am anxious to proceed as soon as possible.
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