The Irish Examiner

28 October 2002

Barring orders: let's be fair

Letter to the Editor from Mary T. Cleary
Irish Examiner

An article by John O'Keeffe (Irish Examiner, 10 Oct. 2002) contained a misleading statement. Referring to the fact that the majority of interim barring orders subsequently led to full barring orders, he stated that the "evidence showed that individual men had been violent towards their partners."

In fact, under the domestic violence legislation, there is no requirement to produce evidence. Cases are decided on the 'balance of probabilities.' Barring orders can be and most are granted on the basis of uncorroborated allegations Also the granting of an interim barring order can prejudice the subsequent hearing against the accused.

In June, 1999, both the Law Society and AMEN (Male Victims of Domestic Violence) made submissions to the then Minister for Justice, pointing to a number of flaws in this legislation, including that identified by the Supreme Court in its recent judgement.

Now, over three years later, the position of both organisations has been vindicated. The Law Society's report also referred to "a total absence of guidelines as to the standards of proofs necessary to establish abuse."

This issue was also dealt with in AMEN's submission. There are many other serious flaws in the Domestic Violence Act, 1996, apart from that identified in the Supreme Court judgement. While these other flaws may or may not be technically contrary to the Constitution, they must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Failure to do so, following the Supreme Court decision, would amount to negligence.

One of the reasons all family legislation is so defective and unbalanced is that it is shaped and influenced in a totally undemocratic manner.

Family law is essentially about reconciling the competing interests of men and women. If the system is to be based on the values of democracy, equality and justice, then organisations representing men and women should be treated equally.

Mary T Cleary,
9/10 Academy Street,
Co Meath.