| 16.1°C Belfast

Potential domestic murders probed as coronavirus lockdown sparks violence and abuse in Northern Ireland homes

Close

The Covid-19 PSNI response team in Belfast, wearing their
protective suits

The Covid-19 PSNI response team in Belfast, wearing their protective suits

In their vehicle

In their vehicle

The sign on their decontamination room

The sign on their decontamination room

Alan Todd

Alan Todd

The Covid-19 PSNI response team in Belfast, wearing their protective suits

The PSNI is investigating "potential domestic murders" during the coronavirus crisis, a senior officer has revealed.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd had previously predicted a rise in domestic violence during the epidemic, and he said yesterday that has sadly materialised across the service.

He said: "Regrettably, we now have potential domestic murders that we are investigating.

"Some of those are likely to come before the courts today or tomorrow."

He told Stormont's justice committee his officers are seeing more reports of abuse and violence in the home.

People are currently confined to their homes apart from to make essential trips, in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.

Mr Todd said: "We are certainly seeing that volume (of abuse) rising as was predicted.

"We are doing a significant amount of work around that in terms of communications."

DUP committee chair Paul Givan said the officer's remarks will cause alarm.

Mr Todd added: "Regrettably, we are seeing increases across the service."

Northern Ireland's main domestic violence charity has called for more resources as it braces itself for a surge in cases during the lockdown.

Women's Aid urged a "guaranteed commitment" from Stormont ministers following restrictions imposed on movement.

Emergency accommodation for women fleeing domestic abuse at home is being set up at three locations across Northern Ireland as part of coronavirus lockdown response.

Women's Aid, the PSNI and the Housing Executive are working together to rescue women and children at immediate risk of harm because of additional pressures of being confined with an abusive partner while in lockdown.

Marie Brown from Foyle Women's Aid in Londonderry said her organisation continues to give support to many women and children who have sought help through non direct contact but is concerned about women who hadn't yet asked for help.

She said: "For women who have never reached out for help but who are in an abusive home, this will be an incredibly stressful time because they are under the same roof all day long with their abuser instead of getting some respite during working hours.

"They will also have the added fear of 'Where would I go?' now because they can't go to family which is why we have responded by making sure that no one - when they reach breaking point - will feel like that.

"Most of our accommodation is full but we are working urgently with the police and housing to finalise the details on getting crisis pads for women who are in this kind of high risk emergency situation. These crisis pads are being set up in Foyle, Belfast and Ballymena but our helpline is also being answered.

"It has been amazing what has been done so quickly to recognise how the coronavirus measures of people being at home all the time will impact on women living with an abusive partner.

"We do anticipate that this will become an issue more and more as the coronavirus crisis goes on," she added.

Meanwhile, Mr Todd said that "eye-watering" amounts of personal protective equipment will be arriving with the PSNI over the coming weeks as officers tackle the fall-out from the epidemic.

Stocks of protective kit are only "modest" at present but nobody is being sent into risky situations unprotected, Mr Todd said.

He added: "We have ordered eye-watering amounts of equipment. Those are going to come online this week, next week and the week after.

"With increasing infection rates in the community, increasing risks to my officers and staff, invariably the huge amounts of equipment coming in will be matched by huge amounts of equipment going out.

"This is going to be an issue for some time."

Belfast Telegraph