NWCI says garda’s 3-month sentence for domestic violence will discourage victims 1 month ago

NWCI says garda’s 3-month sentence for domestic violence will discourage victims

"It sends absolutely the wrong message in terms of how seriously the courts are taking this."

The National Women’s Council of Ireland has criticised the three-month sentence given to a then-serving garda who violently attacked his ex-partner, claiming it will discourage other domestic violence victims from coming forward.

The man, who is in his 30s, illegally entered the woman's home where he then choked her and broke two of her fingers. She and her children had come home to find him "off his face" on cocaine in the living room.

Dublin District Court heard she suffered “massive” facial bruising after the attack, which occurred in 2018.

Judge John Hughes sentenced the former garda to six months with the final three months suspended. He was also ordered to pay his victim €1,000 and to have no contact with her unless he has a court order.

The sentence has prompted widespread criticism, particularly on social media, and now director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, has said it will discourage other victims from reporting domestic violence.

Speaking to the Irish Times, she said: “People have been in touch all day saying they feel the sentence was appalling given the violence involved. It signals sentencing is going in the opposition direction of where we expect things to be going, given that we have better legislation now on things like coercive control.

“We think we have a better understanding of domestic violence and then you see a sentence like this.”

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Ms O’Connor added that such sentences act as a further deterrent for victims to report something that is already a difficult issue to come forward about.

“When sentences like that come out, it’s really negative in terms of encouraging and supporting people to report domestic violence. It sends absolutely the wrong message in terms of how seriously the courts are taking this.”

Judge Hughes had referred to the man's status as a serving garda as an "aggravating factor" in sentencing.

“If it was an aggravating factor, and this is the sentence he got, it just beggars belief, to be honest,” Ms O’Connor continued.

“He seems to have got a lower sentence than the norm. It does raise serious questions about that judge’s understanding of the impact of domestic violence and the seriousness of it.”

The accused can not be identified because the victim’s children were witnesses.

If you have been affected by any of the details of this article, you can contact Women's Aid's 24 hour helpline on 1800 341 900 or Childline on 1800 66 66 66.