Domestic Violence and Abuse - A follow up review

Publication: 29/10/13
Domestic Violence and Abuse
Chief Inspector concerned by limited progress on domestic violence and abuse recommendations

The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland Brendan McGuigan has called for work to be undertaken to fully achieve 12 outstanding inspection recommendations aimed at strengthening how criminal justice agencies handle incidents of domestic violence and abuse.

Mr McGuigan said he was concerned by the level of progress made to date and urged the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in particular, to apply greater strategic leadership and effort to this important issue.
"In 2010, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) urged the PSNI to adopt a more consistent approach to how officers respond to incidents of domestic violence and abuse.  We also recommended the police review the role of the domestic abuse officer and consider training a proportion of officers working in this area to higher investigative standards," said the Chief Inspector.
"Three years on, Inspectors found that differences in practice and approach still remained between different PSNI officers and police Districts, despite the further development of the PSNI domestic incident policy aimed at fostering a consistent approach.  A wider review of operational policing was also found to have stalled work to assess the role and skill set of domestic abuse officers," continued Mr McGuigan.
Inspectors believe that strategic focus is required at both senior and District level within the PSNI, to fully achieve these and other outstanding recommendations within its remit.
Reflecting on the 10% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases being recorded by police since 2009-10, Mr McGuigan said it was encouraging that more people were coming forward and reporting instances of domestic violence and abuse.
"This positive step however means it is incumbent on the police to work to reverse the fall in sanction detection rates for this type of crime, which has occurred over the same three-year period," he said.
"Work by the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service to identify why domestic violence and abuse cases continue to drop out of the criminal justice process, and to establish through case reviews, why some cases have not met the Test for Prosecution must also continue."
In conclusion, Mr McGuigan said addressing the issue of domestic violence and abuse required victims to be adequately supported and placed at the centre of the criminal justice process.
"Inspectors understand that where there has been co-location of Women's Aid workers with Public Protection Units this has had a positive impact and delivered more beneficial outcomes for high risk victims.
"We would hope this approach when combined with the establishment of Victim and Witness Care Units, will improve the experience of those victims who come forward, as it is only through perpetrators being convicted at court that victims can be fully protected," said Mr McGuigan.
In light of the limited progress made against the inspection recommendations, the rise in reported instances of domestic violence and abuse and significant risks to victims, the Chief Inspector indicated CJI Inspectors would return to this issue by way of a full inspection in 2015.