– 14.15 Friday 19TH November 2004
tariffs send the right message to abusive men
Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation (Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland) welcomes the Court’s
decision today in setting the tariff for the horrific murder of Gillian
Doherty. Last month, William Coulter was found guilty of murdering
Gillian in January 2003 and given a life sentence. Lord Justice Nicholson
today imposed a tariff of a minimum of 18 years in prison.
Women’s Aid Federation
sees the outcome of this trial as part of the wider campaign to address
the issue of domestic violence in Northern Ireland. The tariff set by Lord
Justice Nicholson on William Coulter sends out the message that domestic
violence murders will be met with the most severe sanctions allowed by
law. The sentence imposed on this violent man clearly shows that Gillian’s
tragic death has not been trivialised or treated dismissively. Women’s
Aid hopes that today’s decision is acceptable to Gillian’s family and
helps them come to terms with their loss.
Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland wants ultimately all violence against women to stop, it is hoped
that tariffs of this length will be held as a benchmark for future trials
which result from domestic violence. The criminal justice system should
act fully to meet its duty to reflect domestic violence as a key public
safety and protection issue. Judges can ensure that court sentences and
tariffs reflect that seriousness. Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland believes that if violence takes
place within a domestic context it needs to be viewed as an aggravating,
rather than a mitigating, factor and that the sentence should reflect this
severity as in today’s case.
Sidwell, Director of Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation said:
“Today’s decision sends out the
message to abusive men that their violence and crimes will
not be tolerated. Offenders must be severely punished and Lord Justice
Nicholson has clearly demonstrated that he is prepared to do that in his
court.” She went on to say, “Women know that they have protection against
attack, harassment and abuse at work or in the street; but they also have
the right to know that they don’t have to put up with abuse at home and
that the law will protect them."
Domestic violence is the intentional and persistent physical or emotional
abuse of a woman in a way that causes pain, distress or injury. Not only
does domestic violence have serious physical and emotional effects,
shockingly it is the cause of two deaths every week in the United Kingdom.
Last year in Northern Ireland, over 1,100 women with over 1,000 children
fled abusive relationships and stayed in Women’s Aid refuges. The Women’s
Aid 24 Hour Helpline handles more than 300 calls every week from women
seeking help. One in every three calls made to the Police Service is about
a domestic incident.
Unfortunately today’s outcome is not indicative of many
previous cases where tariffs for murder and other domestic violence crimes
have been alarmingly lenient. Many women, seeking to end the violence
being perpetrated on them, have found the experience of the court system
Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland wishes to extend sincere sympathy to Gillian’s family
and to offer them support through this difficult time. This support is
also available to any woman in Northern Ireland who is living with
domestic violence. Get help by calling the Women’s Aid 24 Hour Helpline
(0800 917 1414) or through all local Women’s Aid groups located throughout
Northern Ireland (contact details in the phone book or via the helpline).
further information please contact:
2003/04 16,926 domestic violence incidents were recorded
half of which involved violence.
This is an increase of 1,414 (9.1%) on that reported in the previous year.
have been over 90,000 calls to the Women’s Aid 24 hour helpline since it
was established in 1995.
year, over 2,000 women and children were accommodated in Women’s Aid
refuges throughout Northern Ireland.
British Crime Survey indicates that 1 in 4 women experience domestic
violence at some point in their lives. It cuts across class, age, religion
and ethnic group. It is most commonly perpetrated by men against women.
impact of domestic violence on women can be serious health problems both
mental and physical, due to repeated threatened and actual emotional,
sexual and physical abuse.
most serious domestic violence results in hospitalisation and death.
Women’s Aid 24 Hour Helpline number is 028 9033 1818. Women can call the
helpline for assistance and support. For women who do not speak English,
the helpline now uses Language Line, a UK wide professional interpreting
service in over 100 languages.