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 FRIDAY JULY 23 2004 

Women’s Aid dismayed by decision

Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation (Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland) is disappointed that the Attorney General has decided not to refer the case of David McCord to the Court of Appeal.  Despite mounting public concern and the understandable anger of the bereaved family of murdered Nichola Dickson, Lord Goldsmith has concluded that an eleven year tariff is adequate within current sentencing guidelines.  Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland has particular concerns about the message being conveyed by a number of recent court sentences passed in cases of domestic violence murders.  

Domestic violence is the persistent and intentional abuse of a woman by a partner who misuses power and control within an intimate relationship.  It is clear from the experience of many, many women that violent behaviour intensifies in frequency and severity over time.  Instead of severely punishing intentionally violent behaviour, the courts seem to be sending the message to violent men that murdering a woman who has been your partner provokes a punishment of less than a dozen years in prison. Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland believes that if violence takes place within a domestic context it needs to be viewed by judges as an aggravating rather than a mitigating factor and that the sentence should reflect this severity. 

The criminal justice system should act fully to meet its duty to reflect domestic violence as a key public safety and protection issue and ensure that court sentences reflect that seriousness. Although current sentencing guidelines seem to suggest that imposing such a short sentence is reflecting fair punishment and retribution, families of murdered victims including Nichola’s mother, Linda Brown, are reacting otherwise. 

Hilary Sidwell, Director of Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation said:  “The message to abusive men needs to be that violence towards women will not be tolerated and that offenders will be severely punished.” She went on to say, “Women have the right to proper safety and justice and we should all be working for more effective interventions to stop the levels of violence towards women that every year result in physical and emotional injury and leave families bereaved." 

Although there was recent cause for optimism about greater understanding of the impact of domestic violence with the case of Conor Doyle being forwarded for appeal, it is all the more disappointing for Nichola’s family to learn that David McCord will not face any further sanctions for her murder.

Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation supports Linda Brown in her campaign to seek and secure real justice for her daughter.  

Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland believes that any meaningful action to address domestic violence requires greater public condemnation and rejection of violence against women.  Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland urges the Attorney General to reconsider the case of
David Thomas McCord and to appeal to have his sentence increased to the highest possible term.    

Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland offers support to women in Northern Ireland who are living with domestic violence.  Help is available by calling the Women’s Aid 24 hour helpline (0800 917 1414), or through any Women’s Aid group in Northern Ireland (contact details in the phone book or via the helpline).




·        Since 1996 48 people have been killed in Northern Ireland in domestic murders. 

·        In 2003/04 16,926 domestic violence incidents were recorded over half of which involved violence. This is an increase of 1,414 (9.1%) on that reported in the previous year. 

·        There have been over 90,000 calls to the Women’s Aid 24 hour helpline since it was established in 1995. 

·        Last year, over 2,000 women and children were accommodated in Women’s Aid refuges throughout Northern Ireland. 

·        The 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.  

·        The 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.   

·        At its most serious domestic violence results in hospitalisation and death. 

·        The 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.