Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland charity's call for change to domestic abuse laws

By Leona O'Neill

Londonderry-based charity La Dolce Vita Project will today launch its Just and Fair campaign to highlight the challenges family law presents to those affected by domestic abuse.

The event at the City Hotel will bring together victims, politicians, the criminal justice inspector, members of the Probation Board and Education Authority, as well as representatives from Beyond Abuse NI and Stalking NI.

It is aiming to highlight the challenges current family law poses to domestic abuse victims in terms of contact, supervision, care and adoption orders, as well as the mental health impact on victims and the generations who follow.

Donna-Maria Logue, founder of La Dolce Vita Project, said the group wishes to support change and see victims of domestic abuse treated fairly.

"We want to allow them their freedom of speech, a right to family life and recognition within the court system of the life-long impact of domestic abuse," she said.

"We are launching a campaign on the back of the civil and public family justice system review which came out at the end of last year and the subsequent recommendations for the family justice system. We are delighted that the review actually happened because we have been pushing for it for a long time.

"However our difficulty is that when it comes to recommendations such as administration and reports, it's not very much about the people who are being affected and what they want to see implemented.

"So we decided we would look at the review, examine what the recommendations were in our own research that we have been doing and highlight people's voices."

Speakers include Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw and Sinn Fein MLA Michaela Boyle.

One woman will be sharing her story of how her children were placed with her abuser's parents.

"What we are going to be looking at is the cost and the wastage within court cases regarding long adjournments and delays on papers, independent assessment reports and people brought over from England, and whether this is just and fair," said Ms Logue.

"We want the changes to be for the people and for the children. We want it to help build relationships and to build on the conflict of relationships.

"We want to see more done.

"We are delighted and welcome this new report but it is early days to see what it is actually worth because it is only now being implemented throughout the country."

Ms Logue added that the lack of a functioning Assembly is hampering progress in getting protective legislation in place.

"We have MLAs ready and willing to put out these questions for us.

"However without a functioning Assembly at the moment, we are limited. Nothing can be agreed," she said.

"These are cross-departmental issues.

"It is our hope that new legislation can be brought in to support parents who are living long-term without their children.

"But there is a lot that has to be done before any legislation can be passed.

"However, without an Assembly, nothing can be agreed."

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