Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Question 1117 – Domestic violence [Alcohol] [1576/24].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Question 1117 – Domestic violence [Alcohol] [1576/24]. (17 Jan 2024)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2024...

1117. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Justice if engagement has occurred between her Department and the Garda Commissioner in relation to the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022, in particular the need to protect and support women who may experience increased violence as a direct result of the forthcoming Bill (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1576/24]

Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice: I can assure the Deputy that combatting all forms of domestic, sexual and gender based violence (DSGBV) is a priority for me and this is something that is considered in the context of talking forward all areas of my Departments work.

This is reflected in an increase of €10m in Budget allocations in 2024 for this purpose and in the development of policy and legislation.

In addition, a new statutory based DSGBV Agency was established at the start of this year with a budget of approximately €59 million provided under Budget 2024.

One of the functions of the agency will be to drive the implementation of the Zero Tolerance Strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Under the most recent Zero Tolerance implementation plan there were 144 actions assigned to various Departments, the majority of which have, or are, progressing in line with the specified timeframes, including the following:

  • The commencement of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Act 2023 in November last year;
  • The publication of the Sexual Violence Survey 2022 by the CSO which provides high quality national prevalence data on sexual violence;
  • The publication of the Family Courts Bill 2022 on 1 December 2022 which provides for the creation of new dedicated Family Courts as divisions within the existing court structures;
  • The production of awareness campaigns on intimate image abuse, consent and victims of crime to raise public awareness of DSGBV in all its forms and across all groups in society, to challenge established beliefs in relation to DSGBV, and to make clear the pathways to safety and supports available to victims of DSGBV.

I also recently enacted new legislation which doubles the maximum sentence for assault causing harm to 10 years, and which introduces standalone offences of stalking and non-fatal strangulation. These are commons offences in domestic violence cases and expands the range of sentencing available to judges in such cases to reflect the harm caused by such crimes.

It is recognised that historically domestic violence has been underreported due to a number of factors including societal attitudes. The CSO is now working on a Domestic Violence Survey to provide more accurate prevalence data, and a key aim of the Zero Tolerance Strategy is to increase awareness of what constitutes DSGBV and to encourage victims to report such crimes to An Garda Síochána and seek help.

In relation to the Deputy's specific question concerning the the Sale of Alcohol Bill, the Deputy may be aware, that I recently outlined my intention to separate the Bill into two Bills, and to bring forward a shorter Bill in the coming months to provide for key reforms, such as:

  • The standardisation of opening hours for pubs and off-licences
  • The introduction of annual late bar permit and an annual nightclub permit
  • The inclusion of new grounds of objection that the premises were not operated in a manner which protects staff, patrons and performers from harassment, including sexual harassment in line with the Zero Tolerance Third National Strategy to Tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence
  • Strengthening of the powers of An Garda Síochána to ensure that public safety and order are maintained

The Government is committed to taking action to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and I want to assure the Deputy that my Department continues to engage with An Garda Síochána in relation to the Sale of Alcohol Bill to ensure that it contains a full suite of enforcement powers to meet their policing needs.

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