Police will wear cameras to tackle domestic abuse
Police officers are to wear body cameras in a pilot scheme aimed at tackling an alarming rise in domestic abuse, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The trial, similar to that given the go-ahead in England and Wales, will commence within weeks and will initially take place in one policing district here.
Police believe the use of the cameras, which will be worn by response officers, will provide invaluable evidence to prosecute offenders.
While they are primarily aimed at curbing domestic abuse, the cameras will be used during a range of policing operations, including public disorder.
Those in favour of the devices say they will also make police more accountable, with their actions caught on camera.
The use of the cameras here follow discussions between the PSNI and Policing Board on how best to tackle domestic abuse – which latest police figures show increased last year.
"Whilst a lot of good work has been taken forward, the board has been pressing the PSNI on the need to introduce measures, such as the routine use of body worn video cameras, to secure photographic evidence that could assist in the prosecution of abusers," DUP MLA and Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said.
Once switched on by an officer, the device records what they see to a hard drive. The recording can be download by the officer when back at base. They can be attached to clothing, helmets or on the front of bicycles.
Their effectiveness was dramatic illustrated in footage released during police operations in England yesterday. The images captured by police officers on the beat arresting criminals and helping victims was released, as Scotland Yard began the world's biggest trial of the uniform-mounted cameras.
One of the two videos showed a crying domestic abuse victim with blood all over her chest shouting "get him away from me", as police arrive and arrest a man before calling for an ambulance.
An officer says "there's lots of blood – we're not sure who's injured", while the woman breathes heavily and groans in pain. Blood can also be seen on the walls and radiator of her home.
The scheme was previously tried in Lisburn in 2009. The current pilot is expected to last for 12 months and could then be rolled out across Northern Ireland.
Figures released by the PSNI yesterday showed more than 27,000 reports of domestic abuse incidents in the past year, an increase of 1.6% compared to the previous 12 months.
"Of serious concern is the further increase in the number of crimes with a domestic abuse motivation and the 5% point reduction in police success in dealing with this crime," said Mr Craig.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who also sits on the Policing Board, said police must do more to tackle domestic abuse.
"Of serious concern is the PSNI's record on tackling domestic abuse because the figures for the past year show the number of crimes with a domestic abuse motivation has increased further and the 5% point reduction in police success in dealing with this crime," she said.
"While domestic abuse is not just an issue for the PSNI, they must play their part and follow through on pledged efforts to address the problem.
"Police failed to follow up on their own recommendations on domestic violence and they must be held to account."