Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland

24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline
0800 917 1414

homeabout us | services | help4you | domestic violence | help4us | volunteering | publications | useful links | jobs |


press releases

Other related pages


»press releases


  May 19 1999

Women's Aid calls for more changes following domestic violence prosecutions.

In recent months a number of very serious and concerning crimes involving domestic violence have been prosecuted through Northern Irelands Courts.

Sentences 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 courts.   

However, 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.  

In 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  Her research also showed that up to one-third of charges relating to offences of a domestic nature were withdrawn.

Current 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 in place. 

Women's 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. 

However, 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.  

Women’s 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 - 

Notes 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 male partners. 

·        In 1998, 8 women were killed as a result of domestic violence. 

·        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.   

Back to Press Release List




contact us

Contact Us:  129 University Street Belfast. BT7 1HP  Tel:(028) 90 249041 Fax:(028) 90 239296  
General email: [email protected]


Please help keep our website useful by providing suggestions and comments by filling in our feedback form