Domestic violence victims should not have to pay legal fees - Ní Mhurchú

Published on: 13 May 2024

Family law barrister Cynthia Ní Mhurchú has said that legal fees are stopping some women from reporting and prosecuting incidents of domestic violence against their abusers. Ní Mhurchú, who works with families in the family courts on a regular basis, said that it can cost hundreds of euros to get a barring order, if legal representation is not paid for by the State by way of free legal aid.


Ní Mhurchú was speaking in advance of the annual Family Lawyers Association conference which takes place today in Athlone, 


“In some cases, the victim does not qualify for free legal aid. You must have an annual disposable income of less than €18,000 and disposable assets of less than €100,000 in order to qualify for legal aid. Although the family home is not included in the assessment, many people are excluded because of their income from work. Other victims may not qualify on paper but in reality they have little or no control over their finances due to coercive control.  Those who do not qualify for legal aid often do not proceed with their application for protection, thereby prolonging the mental torture for themselves and very often young children”


Cynthia Ní Mhurchú’s comments come after she visited domestic violence shelters in Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary, as part of her campaign to win an MEP seat and promote the EU directive on Combating Violence Against Women as recently agreed by the European Parliament in February 2024. 



“I have represented countless domestic violence victims over the years. They have to know that they can turn to the courts for protection. Means or lack thereof should not be a barrier to protection for vulnerable victims and their families. Victims of domestic violence should not have to face an additional financial barrier in order to seek and obtain a protection order in court nor have to contribute to the cost of civil legal aid when they apply for court protection. At the very least the first application for a temporary protection, safety or barring order – by the victim - should be done via an on-line form and an on-line application to a Judge to simplify and streamline the difficult application”


According to Safe Ireland, 1 in 3 women have experienced psychological violence from a partner at some point in their lives and 1 in 6 have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.  According to Ní Mhurchú, evidence shows there is a growing number of men reporting being the victims of domestic violence and that they have very few supports in place to assist those victims. 


The recent EU Directive on Combating Violence Against Women aims to impose minimum standards in EU law in terms of criminalising certain forms of gender-based violence, improving access to justice, protecting and supporting victims and ensuring coordination between relevant services to prevent these types of crimes.