An Overview of The Domestic Violence Act 2018

The Domestic Violence Act, 2018 came into law on the 1st of January 2019. 

Domestic abuse can occur in varied forms; physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial and psychological abuse.  Victims of domestic abuse include men, women and children.  Their relationship with the perpetrator can be that of spouse, cohabitant, parent and those in an intimate relationship.

This legislation brought about significant and progressive changes as follows:

1. Extension of those who can apply for Safety Order and Protection Orders:

A Safety Order is an order of the court which prohibits a person (the Respondent) from committing or threatening to commit acts of violence against the person to whom the order is granted (the Applicant). The order will also prohibit persons from following or communicating (including by electronic means) with the Applicant. This provision vis-à-vis communicating by electronic means is a new provision and it is vital in this digital age.

A Protection Order is a temporary emergency order, which if granted, remains in place until the hearing of a Safety Order or Barring Order and provides similar protections to a Safety Order. A Protection Order application is made by the Applicant alone, the Respondent is not notified of this particular application and only becomes aware of it when a Protection Order is granted by the court.

These orders do not exclude persons from a property. 

The legislation has extended the category of persons who can apply for a Safety/Protection Order to those who are, or who have been, in an intimate relationship. 

2. Emergency Barring Order:

A Barring Order requires the Respondent, the violent person, to leave the home and prohibits further use or threats of violence.  In order to qualify to apply for a Barring Order the Applicant must establish that they have an equal or greater interest in the property in which they reside with the Respondent.

An Emergency Barring Order is a new relief which gives protection to a person who cannot satisfy the “property test” for a limited time period to a maximum of 8 days.  

A further application can be made for an emergency barring order but not until at least one month after the granting of the first order, save in exceptional circumstances.   

These orders enable an applicant time to seek alternative accommodation where they may be of limited financial means and require assistance. Such a situation commonly exists for Cohabitants who do not have an interest in the property in which they reside.

3. Coercive Control:

The offence of Coercive Control is the most significant change to the Domestic Violence Act 2018.   It is a criminal offence.

Coercive Control occurs where a person persistently engages in behaviour which is controlling or coercive, has a serious effect on the person alleging this offence and a person found guilty of this offence is liable to a fine or imprisonment depending on the severity of the offence. 

A spouse, Civil partner or a person in an intimate relationship with the alleged perpetrator can make a complaint to the Gardaí if they believe an offence has been committed.

Where are we now? 

The new provisions of the Domestic Violence Bill, 2018, could not have come at a more opportune time, particularly in light of the current pandemic. Statistics have shown that the number of Domestic Violence Applications an criminal prosecutions for breaching court orders have significantly increased.   Victims of abuse are having to spend more confined time with the abuser leading to an escalation of abuse.

Recent Case Law

In a recent case of X -v- Y IEHC/525, Justice Barrett upheld the granting of an Interim Barring Order in favour of Ms X,  where it was found that Ms X was “at her wits end” in terms of dealing with “Mr Y’s impossible intimidating behaviour and with the constant threat of imminent harm”. 

Interestingly, in this case, the Husband laid great emphasis on the Wife’s new partner, who was a woman. The court urged lawyers to be careful about raising issues as intimate as sexuality in Court. Justice Barrett went on to state that “these are inherently personal and private matters and should not be raised unless it is of relevance…..while family law proceedings are In Camera, the Judge, the Registrar, the Judicial assistants and any security person and at least some of the lawyers present, are strangers to the parties, and one does not squander all entitlement to privacy on entering a Courtroom, even if it is for In Camera hearing”. 

The first conviction, by Jury, for the Offence of Coercive Control in this State was at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in November 2020.  The Gardaí commended the victim for her bravery, encouraging other victims to come forward.

The Chief Superintendent commented following the case that “it is illegal, it is criminal, if you come to the Garda station and tell your story, you will receive a sympathetic hearing”, and “if you are a victim of coercive control, if you are the subject of abuse or assault, and whether you are in a gay relationship or a heterosexual relationship, whether you are married or have a partner, whether you are young or old, you do not have to put up with this behaviour”.

The Domestic Violence Act is a progressive Act that is being enforced by the Courts and the State authorities.   


If you would like any further information on the Domestic Violence Act 2018, please contact Karen Tobin, Family Law Solicitor, Comyn Kelleher Tobin.