Cork TDs have called on the Government to act to protect women and children in the courts system, following the publication of a major new report showing that many have been left down by the criminal justice system.
“Women should not be faced with an obstacle course when they report domestic violence to state bodies,” said Cork North Central Socialist Party and Solidarity TD Mick Barry.
“Real change is needed now.
"There is a long and sorry history of excellent reports being left to gather dust on the shelves of Government Ministers.
"Pressure needs to be applied by campaigners to ensure that that does not happen in this case,” he added.
The Report on the Intersection of the Criminal Justice, Private Family Law and Public Law Child Care Processes in Relation to Domestic and Sexual Violence, was prepared for the National Women’s Council and the Department of Justice by experts Nuala Egan and Ellen O’Malley Dunlop.
According to the authors: “Unfortunately, the in-camera rule has had a very negative impact upon the development of a body of data and of research in relation to many vital details of the civil court experience in domestic and, or sexual violence cases.”
Among many criticisms, the report found that the various arms of the State, including gardaí, and the child and family agency Tusla, have collectively failed to collaborate in many instances to protect vulnerable victims of domestic violence.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said the report is “deeply concerning.” “It is essential that the gardaí and Tusla and the courts are taking instances of domestic violence very seriously, acting urgently when that is appropriate to protect women and to protect children in these circumstances.”
“One of the big issues I would be concerned about is the lack of refuge places, and this may be contributing to the fact that, because there are not enough refuge places, that perhaps Tusla and the gardaí, can be reluctant and slower to act. That needs to be urgently addressed.”
Victims of domestic violence “need to be at the centre of any decisions that are made.”
“There should be no reluctance in collaboration,” added Mr Ó Laoghaire.
The report recommends that the Courts Service commission an annual survey of the experiences of persons within the private family law processes in those cases in which allegations of domestic or sexual violence are raised.