Urgent need to address adequately gender based violence – Brendan Smith TD

Replies to Parliamentary Questions I tabled to the Minister for Justice regarding the need to address adequately gender based violence.

For Written Answer on : 20/01/2022
Question Number(s): 275,272,274 Question Reference(s): 2800/22, 2762/22, 2799/22
Department: Justice
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D., Cian O’Callaghan T.D.


* To ask the Minister for Justice if she will give urgent consideration to the request of Safe Ireland for an immediate public and political response to the increasing rates of violence against women; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20 January, 2022.

* To ask the Minister for Justice if she will take steps to ensure that tackling gender-based violence is under the remit of a single Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Cian O’Callaghan T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20 January, 2022.

* To ask the Minister for Justice when the new strategy on domestic and sexual violence based on the four key principles of prevention, protection, prosecution and policy co-ordination will be finalised and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20 January, 2022.


I can assure the Deputies this Government is committed to tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) in all its forms, and to ensuring that people, particularly women and vulnerable people, feel safe and are safe in our communities.

The prioritisation of this hugely-important work is evident in the policy and legislative developments implemented by this Government and those that are currently being progressed. Additionally, increased budget allocations have been secured this year in order to address such heinous and unacceptable behaviour.

As you may be aware, I am currently leading work on a new whole of government strategy to combat domestic, sexual, gender-based violence. This new plan will have a particular focus on prevention, and on ensuring victims are better supported. It will set an overall goal of zero tolerance in our society for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

The Strategy has been developed in partnership with the sector to ensure it is targeted, comprehensive and effective in achieving all of the goals set out. The Deputy may be interested to know that Safe Ireland is one of two NGOs (the other is the National Women’s Council of Ireland) that my Department has partnered with to provide expert support in relation to the development of the Strategy. This included examining how progress on actions is identified and reported, analysis of progress to date and of possible priority issues to be addressed, how drafting of actions should be approached, expert advice on moving to an outcome-focused framework, expert advice on the development of a prevention focused Strategy and support for wider public consultation. The process has been supported by external consultants, overseen and directed by an executive group consisting of the Department of Justice, the NWCI, and Safe Ireland.

The new Strategy will be structured around the four pillars or goals of the Istanbul Convention which are

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Prosecution
  • Co-ordinated Policies

Under each of these high level objectives there will be a number of specific aims listed but the Strategy and aims will be high level in tone and content.

A detailed action plan setting out how each of these aims will be achieved, who is responsible for them and the timeframe for delivery is currently being drafted with the sector so that it is targeted, ambitious and deliverable.

In the coming weeks, I will be inviting feedback through a focused consultation process on the final draft to ensure the Strategy is correctly emphasising the areas that people feel need the most attention.

I expect to bring the finalised strategy to Government in March, and I will oversee the implementation of the strategy.

Last year, on foot of the audit, it was agreed that the Department of Justice will continue to have lead policy responsibility for DSGBV.

My Department will also assume responsibility for services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, in addition to policy responsibility.

A detailed plan for how this will work is in preparation and will be brought to Government for decision.

Also this year, I will be introducing legislation to strengthen the law in a number of areas.

The new Garda Powers Bill will provide a clear and transparent statutory basis for the existing police powers of search, arrest and detention.

The Digital Recordings Bill provides for the necessary modern technology in the investigation of serious crime

Before Easter, I will publish a Bill which will include new criminal offences for stalking and for non-fatal strangulation.

The act of stalking itself is already covered by existing law, but I will propose the following changes to make the law clearer and stronger:

Explicitly reference stalking as a criminal offence;

  • Make it clear that stalking includes watching or following a victim, even where they are not aware of being watched or followed;
  • Make it clear that impersonating the victim, and then communicating with a third party, is illegal;
  • Update the law to ensure that it covers all forms of modern communications.
  • I will also consider introducing a provision to allow a victim, in very serious cases, apply to the court for an order to prevent the alleged perpetrator from communicating with them in advance of a trial.

While choking and non-fatal strangulation are already illegal, creating a new, standalone offence should encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them.

It has been shown that this crime can be an indication of future, lethal violence and is a risk factor for homicides against women in the home.

In the Summer, I will publish a new Hate Crime Bill which will introduce new, specific aggravated offences with enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics, including gender.

Before the end of September, I will publish a new Sexual Offences Bill, which will introduce important changes including:

Extending victim anonymity to further categories of victims

Repealing provisions for sentences to be delivered in public

Legal representation for victims

I will also seek to enact the Sex Offenders Bill within months to strengthen the management and monitoring of sex offenders in the community.

Within the coming weeks, I will sign an order to bring into operation legislation which provides for pre-trial hearings, which will significantly improve the trial process for victims of sexual offences.

This is an area of work I have prioritised since becoming Minister for Justice, but I know much more needs to be done, and I’m determined to do much more.