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Judge calls for new approach to domestic abuse in Northern Ireland - 'It poisons generation after generation'

Judge McElholm said rehabilitation of offenders needed to be a priority


District Judge Barney McElholm

District Judge Barney McElholm

District Judge Barney McElholm

A district judge has said that urgent changes are needed to Northern Ireland's domestic abuse legislation to stop the "circle of continuous offending and suffering".

Derry-based Magistrate Barney McElholm made the comments in an interview with Viewdigital.

Judge McElholm said that those who see or become victims of violence often end up becoming victims or perpetrators themselves.

He told VIEW that greater emphasis needed to be focused on rehabilitation of offenders to stop them continuing the same patterns of offending behaviour after they are released from prison.

"I would like to see domestic violence being addressed in a very serious, co-ordinated and methodical way.

Judge McElholm said that he sees domestic violence cases 'every day' in Londonderry Magistrates Court and it cannot be allowed to continue.

"Most domestic violence offences that come through me fall into the realm of common assault. And that has a maximum sentence of six months, you need more specific legislation to deal with this," he said.

"I have sent someone to jail, who was in front of me for a domestic assault, for a six-month sentence. They were out in a couple of months’ time. What has changed?

"We have to be far more imaginative and nnovative. Our legislators need to look at the entire situation. You need a combination of custody and rehabilitation, such as perpetrator programmes, designed specifically for people who have served a period of custody.

Judge McElholm once quoted from a W.H. Auden poem ‘September 1, 1939’: “I and the public know, what all schoolchildren learn, those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.”

"I was referring to the insidious nature of domestic abuse. It poisons generation after generation," he said.

"If you get a child who is subjected to domestic abuse or who witnesses domestic abuse against one of his parents by the other parent, that child will be very emotionally and psychologically disturbed and to the point where they will either become a perpetrator or they could become a victim.'

Belfast Telegraph