Clare issues first protection order in court via video link
CLARE was the first county to host a Protection Order application via video link last week in relation to alleged domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While men and women can’t make an application for these orders in person, they can contact the Family Law Office and make their application over the phone.
If a person is isolating due to Covid-19 or unable to attend, they can speak to the clerk and may be accommodated via video link.
Sergeant Caitríona Houlihan explained the first application for an online Protection Order concerned a woman that was isolating because of Covid-19.
This was arranged by Clare Haven Services working with officials in the Clare Courts Service; the hearing took less than an hour.
Sergeant Houlihan said while each case is dealt on its own merits, the pandemic is not a barrier to the application process.
“Every case that comes into the Clare Courts Service is dealt with on its merits. It was felt it wasn’t safe to wait and not proceed with this application.
“The respondent in this case was out of the country, but the case still proceeded for a family order due to the level of violence and coercive control that was disclosed. This case was conducted via video link, which worked really well.”
Sergeant Houlihan said people who may need to obtain a Protection Order can seek advice from the Courts Service.
“Over the last 12 months, the domestic violence cases seem to be more aggressive in nature, which was very concerning. With the reopening of schools, referrals have fallen.
“There were two or three domestic violence cases that I found distressing. Being able to engage with other agencies and talk about these cases was very helpful for me. It is great having the Clare Divisional Protective Service Unit as we all support each other.”
In one coercive control case involving a same-sex couple, Sergeant Houlihan recalled the victim found it difficult to contact gardai after their phone was taken from them, water was poured over a computer with internet access and referral eventually came through their public primary care worker with their consent.
This sparked a united response from the gardaí and the Court Service.
“Domestic violence isn’t confined to heterosexual couples. It involves same-sex couples and transgender. You don’t have to be living with someone to be a victim of coercive control to apply for an order.
“If a person doesn’t feel safe contacting a garda, pick another agency who can refer them on discreetly. There is a domestic abuse liaison sergeant in every part of Clare. You can never be too safe dealing with victims.”
Sergeant Paul English said there is a lot more public awareness about domestic violence compared to five or ten years ago.
He said the interview given by South Galway mother-of-three Sourney Linnane about her experience of coercive control had raised issues for the gardaí.
The latest Clare Local Area Network Opposing Violence Against Women project is the development and circulation of a resource pack to enhance awareness and understanding and rights of children and young people living with domestic abuse for frontline practitioners.
The resource pack will create awareness and understanding of the impact and harm causing by living with domestic abuse on a child’s physical, emotion, mental and social development.
Sergeant Houlihan stressed if a child makes a phone call about domestic abuse, the first step is to ensure the child is safe and can go to a safe place.
She said children don’t just witness domestic violence, they see it, hear it and feel it.
She stressed safety planning is crucial when dealing with domestic violence and this includes engaging with agencies such as Clare Haven Service to secure emergency accommodation to prevent homelessness if a victim decides to leave an abusive relationship.
This ensures when a victim leaves an abusive situation, it is less traumatic and risky for them.
One of the most significant developments in recent years was the creation of the Clare Domestic Abuse Resource Pack that can be accessed at clarehaven.ie/resources/domestic abuse/resources pack
By Dan Danaher