In cases of domestic violence there are three main types of orders which can be sought by an applicant pursuant to the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act 1996.
- A Safety Order – this is an order directing a person not to use, or threaten to use, violence against, molest or put in fear another person or not to watch and beset a place where the other person resides.
- A Barring Order – this is an order requiring a person who is residing at a particular place to leave that place and/or prohibiting the person from entering that place until further order or until such time as the court may determine. A barring order may also prohibit the person from using violence, threatening to use violence, molesting, putting in fear another person or watching or besetting their premises.
- A Protection Order – a protection order has the same effect as a safety order but it only applies in the period from the date of application for a safety or barring order until the date of hearing of that application.
The relevant test as to whether a court should make any of the above orders is whether it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the safety or welfare of the applicant or a dependent person so requires. A dependent person includes a child who is not of full age, or if of full age has a physical or mental disability such that they are unable to live independently.
A spouse may apply for a barring order against the other spouse or against a child who is of full age and is not a dependent person. The Health Service Executive can, in certain limited circumstances, apply for one of the above orders with a view to protecting a particular person who because of threats or violence it believes to be unable to bring the application. A person who is not married to, but has lived as husband and wife with another person for a period of six months in aggregate during the period of twelve months, preceding the application, may apply for a safety order against the other person. A person who is not married to, but has lived as husband and wife, with another person for a period of six months in aggregate during the period of nine months preceding the application may apply for a barring order in regard to a premises in respect of which they have an equal or greater ownership interest that the person who is to be subject to the order.
The District and Circuit Courts have power to grant the above orders. A safety order made by the District Court, or on appeal by the Circuit Court, cannot be for a period of greater than 5 years. A barring order made by the District Court, or on appeal by the Circuit Court cannot be for a period greater than 3 years. A barring or safety order made by the Circuit Court at first instance can be for any period or until further order. Where an application for a barring or safety order is commenced and determined in the District Court there is a right of appeal to the Circuit Court where a full re-hearing will take place. Where an application for a barring or safety order is commenced and determined in the Circuit Court there is a right of appeal to the High Court where a full re-hearing will take place. An appeal against a barring or safety order does not stay the operation of the order unless the court otherwise orders.
In cases where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to an applicant or a dependent person between the making of an application for a barring order and its determination the court may make an interim barring order. Such an order may be made ex parte, that is without notice to the other side, if such a course of action is necessary in the interests of justice, but in such circumstances the order cannot be for a period exceeding 8 working day, unless it is confirmed at a hearing on notice to the Respondent during that period.
A person who contravenes a safety order, a barring order, an interim barring order or a protection order is guilty of an offence which can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment. Further a member of the Garda Siochana has a right to arrest someone if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that a breach of one of the orders has taken place.