Belfast Telegraph

Judge's domestic abuse warning as victims too frightened to speak out

By Alan Erwin and Chris Kilpatrick

Domestic violence in Northern Ireland has reached frightening levels with many victims still reluctant to speak out against their abusers, a senior judge has warned.

More than 27,000 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by police last year, with the PSNI now dealing with an average of 70 domestic-related calls every day.

Despite the already grim numbers, police and victims' campaigners say there is still a large amount of under-reporting of the crime which, for many, remains both a taboo subject and Northern Ireland's hidden crime epidemic.

A judge yesterday warned alleged abusers were escaping justice with victims reluctant to make statements or testify in court.

Mr Justice Weir set out the potential impediment as he granted bail to a man accused of attacking his ex-wife twice in just over a month.

Charles Ward (35) of The Glen in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, faces two charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Police were first called to his ex-wife's home on August 8 amid claims he had punched her in the face after trying to take her teenage son's phone and computer.

Another 999 call was made following a second incident on Monday.

The High Court heard Ward allegedly hit the woman after being told he would not be staying overnight.

But with both mother and son refusing to make statements of complaint, a prosecution lawyer said there were "difficulties" in the case.

Mr Justice Weir responded that domestic violence generally was at a "frightening level", much of it going unreported.

He acknowledged police did their best to investigate and gather evidence.

The judge stated, however: "It really is very difficult for them to prosecute these cases in situations where people send for police and then refuse to make a complaint to police or are unwilling if they have made a complaint to give evidence to the court."

This week a poll found one in three women had been the victim of domestic abuse.

Most recent PSNI figures showed that last year more than 27,000 reports of domestic violence were reported to police.

But victims' campaigners have warned the shocking figures are just the tip of the iceberg, with violence behind closed doors now endemic throughout Northern Ireland.

Policing Board member and SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said more had to be done to support victims.

"It is very alarming," she said.

"In the past year we've seen a number of lives lost as a result of domestic violence.

"Statistics show a woman or man can suffer up to 34 incidents before they make a report to police.

"There's a responsibility on the government to support the voluntary sector and those seeking refuge.

"Nobody should have to suffer violence."

Stressing that any domestic violence is "absolutely deprecated", Mr Justice Weir noted that the case against Ward involves two serious alleged assaults.

He ruled that Ward should be released to live at an address in Dungannon. The accused was banned from either entering Coalisland or contacting his ex-wife.

In a bid to tackle domestic violence, police officers are wearing body cameras as part of a pilot scheme. Police believe the use of the cameras will provide evidence to prosecute offenders.

While they are primarily aimed at curbing domestic abuse, the cameras are also being used during a range of policing operations.

Background

This week a poll found one in three women had been the victim of domestic abuse. However, 35% of women said they would keep the abuse to themselves if they were a victim.

Most recent PSNI figures showed that last year more than 27,000 reports of domestic abuse were reported to police – a 1.6% increase from the previous year. But victims' campaigners have warned the shocking figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The reported incidents dwarf those of a sectarian or racist nature.

Man told wife he’d ‘put her into bath of acid’

An estranged husband allegedly threatened to bathe his ex-wife in acid and mutilate any new partner, the High Court heard.

Nerijus Karazinas is accused of sending a series of menacing text messages and warning her: “You won't belong to anyone else.”

The 35-year-old Lithuanian national, with an address at Killcomain Grove in Portadown, Co Armagh, faces charges of threats to kill, harassment and threats to damage a window.

He was refused bail due to the potential risk he poses to his former wife.

She alerted police after he allegedly turned up drunk at her workplace earlier this year.

Karazinas also sent her texts and eight unwanted phone calls on February 17, it was claimed.

Detailing the content of the messages, prosecutor Conor Gillespie said one read: “If I find out with who I will bath you in acid and I will cut his d*** off. I promise on my children's lives.”

Further threats to inflict similar harm if Karazinas found out she had “cheated” on him were allegedly sent.

In one it was claimed that he stated: “I pray to God, if you don't believe me, you won't belong to anyone else.”

The court heard he also warned that “a lot of people will be crying” because he would kill anyone for her. As the alleged campaign continue another message contained a promise to leave the country for good if she told him the truth.

Mr Gillespie said when the woman returned to her car a bunch of flowers had been left on it.

Seeking bail, defence counsel stressed Karazinas was willing to seek medical help. “He would obtain a referral from his GP to attend anger management classes to deal with these stressful situations in a more appropriate way,” the barrister said.

But refusing the application, Mr Justice Maguire ruled: “I would not have confidence this is a man whose behaviour could be sufficiently controlled by bail conditions to avoid the risk that is obvious to his former partner.”

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