New laws on abuse, stalking, and harassment welcomed by women’s support group

ADAPT Director of Services Denise Dunne

ADAPT Domestic Abuse Services in Limerick has welcomed new legislation which adopts a zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence and makes attacks such as non-fatal strangulation an offence for the first time.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has announced measures which came into force last week on a series of amendments to the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 which includes increased sentencing for assault causing harm, two new non-fatal strangulation or suffocation offences, newly revamped offence of harassment, and a new offence of stalking.

Director of Adapt, Denise Dunne, told the Limerick Post that in cases of domestic abuse where there is physical harm, the increase in the maximum sentence for assault causing harm from five years to ten years “reflects the gravity of this offence and sends a clear message to perpetrators of abuse that it will not be tolerated”.

“While harassment and stalking have always existed for women experiencing domestic abuse, certainly over the past number of years this has been exacerbated with the use of social media and electronic tracking.

“The new offences of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation are also welcome. Unfortunately, these are acts that women report to us and which are deemed as indicators of high risk, but up to now were not considered as offences in their own right.”

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Ms Dunne said that it is “essential” that the legislation should come into effect.

“We are seeing a year-on-year increase in the amount of women reaching out for support throughout the range of services we offer including our 24-hour helpline (1800 200 504), refuge service, community outreach, and court services.

“Our court drop-in support and information service, which runs every Monday and Friday in Merchant’s Quay Courthouse, is available for women wishing to avail of court orders. This legislation will hopefully encourage more women to come forward to seek support and allow for greater protection for victims of domestic abuse/coercive control”.