THE verdict in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard libel trial in the United States should not dissuade Irish women from coming forward if they are victims of domestic violence, Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan has said.
“I don’t think individual cases are going to have a huge impact on women coming forward,” he said as he launched a new Fianna Fáil policy paper on aggression against women, which calls for the establishment of a Domestic Violence Register, similar to the Sex Offenders Register.
Despite the vast publicity given to the Heard-Depp case worldwide – and the significant online trolling of Heard as a result of her claims against her former husband – Mr O’Callaghan said: “That was a very unusual case. It wasn’t a criminal action, but a defamation action, a civil action in America.
“I don’t think it would or should deter women in Ireland from coming forward to make complaints.”
He said the ‘boring lawyer’ in him also believed that any new domestic violence register, which he encouraged Justice Minister Helen McEntee to adopt, should only be visible to law enforcement personnel.
Asked why the policy paper was silent on the systematic bullying in the workplace, he said: “I suppose we’re concentrating on violence in this paper, and obviously violence includes the threat of violence.
“If it is the case that the bullying in the workplace translates into violence, or moves over the line into a form of violence, then obviously, it’s covered by this,” he said.
Mr O’Callaghan said gardaí had the power to use information from the sex offenders’ register, and in certain instances “can warn people who are living besides a paedophile, for example, if they believe it necessary.
“Similarly, we think there should be a domestic violence register where people who are convicted of an offence will be listed,” he said.
“But I don’t think it would be feasible to have a publicly-available register that anyone could look into. But certainly I think somebody who may be affected by it, and was in a new relationship should have an entitlement to know (via the gardaí).”
He was speaking in the presence of Jason Poole whose sister Jennifer was stabbed to death by a man who had had a conviction for attacking a former partner and her mother with a knife.
Mr Poole said: “Domestic violence and origins has become far too common. Victims are subjected to a range of different abuses each day, mostly in their homes, but not always. The time is now to end this violence and ensure the victims do not have to suffer anymore at the hands of their abusers.”