‘No excuse’ for delays to domestic abuse laws in Northern Ireland
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan has called for further action to be taken by the criminal justice system to improve how cases of domestic violence and abuse are handled.
Following the publication of the CJI’s latest report on this issue Brendan McGuigan said there was ‘no excuse’ for delays in implementing measures to help victims of domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland.
Figures show that in 2017/18 the PSNI recorded the highest number of domestic abuse incidents to date with 29,913 incidents reported in Northern Ireland. This equates to one incident being reported every 17 minutes.
Before Stormont collapsed legislation creating a new offence of domestic abuse was being discussed but without a functioning Assembly this legislation cannot be introduced.
The report outlines that abuse can take many forms and can be both enabled and exacerbated by the use of technology and social media. It outlines that the need for greater legislative protections to address the issue of coercive control has already been accepted, and work has begun, but again the introduction of new laws will be delayed until a devolved government is restored or legislation is introduced in Parliament.
Brendan McGuigan praised the excellent work of voluntary and community groups, such as Women’s Aid, in helping victims but said that it should not be seen as an alternative to a formalised support scheme. Nine years ago CJI recommended that a properly funded Independent Violence Advisor Service (IDVA) should be established urgently but it has not yet been implemented.
The report also endorsed the practice of listing or grouping domestic offences together at court on a specific day as is the case in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court. The specialist domestic violence listing in Londonderry has been piloted since 2011 but no similar arrangements have been rolled out in other courts in Northern Ireland. This listing arrangement would speed up the progress of domestic abuse cases and offer a more appropriate environment for victims attending court.
You can read the CJI report ‘No Excuse, Public Protection Inspection II: A Thematic Inspection of the Handling of Domestic Violence and Abuse Cases by the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland’ here: