Green Party proposes strengthening protections for witnesses of domestic abuse
Green Party Senator Vincent P. Martin today (February 15th) proposed legislation that would protect victims from being cross-examined by the accused in cases of coercive control. This will strengthen protections for victims by restricting and curtailing an accused person from personally cross-examining a complainant/victim.
Coercive control is the persistent, deliberate pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, financial, sexual including threats).
Announcing his Private Members Bill, Senator Martin, said;
“The danger of domestic violence in Ireland is stark. According to Women’s Aid, one in four women in Ireland have been subjected to domestic violence and abuse. It is essential that we have a more victim centred approach to such criminal prosecutions. Affording an injured party more consideration and protection in coercive control prosecution cases is needed. Curtailing or restricting the right of an accused to personally cross examine a victim would be a very positive protective step.
"It should give a victim considering coming forward to make a complaint and testify in court more assurance, greater confidence and/or also some peace of mind knowing that an accused person will no longer be automatically permitted to cross examine them. An accused person would not be permitted to cross examine in person any witnesses under 18 years of age. It is important to protect victims against the additional serious trauma of the intimidating possibility or prospect of an accused conducting such cross examinations in person."
Senator Roisin Garvey, Leader of the Green Party in the Seanad, said;
"The Green Party fought for this to be included in the Programme for Government. Now it is happening. This will bring massive relief to victims of coercive behaviour in the court room. This is a social justice win for women and all our citizens."
This Bill comes a year after a Bill was co-sponsored by Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly to ensure that no one can give a character reference in a sexual assault case to the accused unless they come to court and are cross-examined.
Senator Pauline O’Reilly said;
“Victims are not on trial. Yet the legal system in Ireland sometimes feels hostile to victims of sexual assault and coercive control. This Bill gives further protection to victims of coercive control, which we hope will encourage more people to come forward.”