Ireland’s legal system is “seriously failing” survivors of domestic abuse, according to Cork women’s refuge worker.
It comes after a convicted murderer was handed an 18-month suspended sentence for viciously assaulting his wife and attempting to suffocate her.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Marius Rucinskas repeatedly struck his wife, tore clumps of hair from her head and pulled off her eyelash extensions at their home on Main Street in Castletownbere.
He had already spent a year remanded in custody on the charges until his release in February of this year. The judge took this into account when he handed down an 18-month sentence suspended for three years.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Caithríona O' Neill, social worker at Cork’s Cuanlee refuge for women and children said the sentence was “absolutely appalling.”
“I think this, unfortunately, is one of the many examples out there of how the legal system in Ireland is serious failing survivors of domestic abuse,” she said.
“In reading the reports, the judge spoke about how he had been drinking and he also spoke about how he works in a difficult work environment in a fish factory and how he stayed away from the village and town since this assault.
“Whenever I read pieces like this I find it very hard and very frustrating because it is like there is a reasoning and rationale for this behaviour. Quite frankly, there is no excuse whatsoever for any assault on a partner.”
Ms O’Neill said Ireland’s legal system needs to be dragged into the 21st Century.
“It is still minimising domestic abuse,” she said. “For a long time, domestic abuse was very hidden; it was in the family home and it wasn’t really taken seriously as an assault charge and it seem like the courts are still following that.”
She said she regularly sees examples of the courts failing to take domestic violence seriously.
“I have often supported women who are going to court for a court order - maybe a barring order - following an assault from a partner with very serious and visible injuries on them when they are in court and they are still being refused,” she said.
“Sometimes instead of being rewarded a barring order, which requires their partner to leave the house immediately, they will be given something like a protection order which allows the partner to stay in the family home
“Many women they don’t feel safe with a protection order. They have applied for the higher-end order, but they are so, so difficult to get in the courts. They are going in with very serious and visible injuries and still not getting these court orders.”
She said the situation is making women reluctant to report domestic violence.
“I completely understand why any survivor of domestic abuse is frightened or an anxious to report but, that being said, I would still really encourage women to seek support,” she said.
“Link in with your family and friends, talk to people about what is happening in your life, seek support from your local domestic violence support services, report to Gardaí – there are supports out there.”
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