May 19 1999
Aid calls for more changes following domestic violence prosecutions.
recent months a number of very serious and concerning crimes involving domestic
violence have been prosecuted through Northern Irelands Courts.
for crimes such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, rape and, for the
first time, the destruction of an unborn child have been handed down by our
Judiciary. In most of these cases,
sentencing has shown evidence of a serious response to domestic violence by the
there is still cause for concern at the response to some cases from both the
courts and the media. The use of terms such as ‘crimes of passion’ and
‘provocation’ minimises the seriousness of the crime. They are insensitive to the already painful ordeal of victims
of domestic violence and their families.
1998, 8 women were killed as a result of domestic violence. In the same year,
the police attended over 14,000 domestic incidents, 50% of which involved
physical violence. It is unclear as
to how many of the perpetrators of these serious crimes are ever prosecuted.
Monica Mc Williams’ research in 1994 showed that domestic violence
takes up approximately 14% of the courts’ case load of Violence Against the
Person. Her research also showed
that up to one-third of charges relating to offences of a domestic nature were
figures of domestic violence offences are likely to be
underestimated due to the lack of coding in the Court’s recording
systems. In order to obtain a more
accurate picture of the extent and cost of domestic violence in Northern Ireland
today, a framework for collecting crime statistics in the courts should be put
Aid has been campaigning for many years for improved responses to domestic
violence from all agencies, including the judiciary. New measures under The Family Homes and Domestic Violence
(NI) Order are one step on the road to greater protection of women and their
children who have suffered violence in the home.
the experience of many women of the criminal justice system is still sometimes
unacceptable. Victims of domestic
violence are often deterred from prosecuting their abusive partners by the
thought of enduring years of uncertainty and the protracted time it takes for a
case to reach court. They may also
refuse to prosecute for a number of other reasons: lack of support offered
whilst going through the court system; the sometimes insensitive attitudes of
the judiciary; and inappropriate media coverage.
Aid acknowledges the importance of the Court’s serious response to the
horrific domestic crimes this year, but recognises that there is still much
progress to be made. We need to
enhance victim confidence in the criminal justice system and to support victims
through the prosecution process. We call on all agencies concerned
to continue to improve their response to domestic violence.
In particular, we urge both the criminal justice system and the media to
take positive measures to protect vulnerable victims.
Domestic crimes require justice to be served and to be seen to be served.
- Ends -
to the Editor
Domestic Violence affects as many as one in every four
women in Northern Ireland. Most
incidents of domestic violence are perpetrated upon women by current or previous
In 1998, 8 women were killed as a result of domestic
90% of domestic violence complaints to the RUC are
made by women.
Over 15,000 women contacted Women’s Aid in Northern
Ireland between 1997 and 1998. Over
900 women and almost 1,500 children stayed in refuge accommodation across
Northern Ireland during those 12 months.
A government policy document entitled Tackling
Domestic Violence outlines the issue of domestic violence and the
response from statutory and voluntary agencies.
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