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PSNI officers need specialist training: domestic abuse victim

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Ordeal: Amanda Sweeney from Sion Mills who was a victim of domestic abuse, with Councillor Michaela Boyle

Ordeal: Amanda Sweeney from Sion Mills who was a victim of domestic abuse, with Councillor Michaela Boyle

Ordeal: Amanda Sweeney from Sion Mills who was a victim of domestic abuse, with Councillor Michaela Boyle

A woman who reported domestic abuse by two different partners is calling for specialist training on the issue to be rolled out to all PSNI officers.

Amanda Sweeney (39) escaped an abusive relationship 11 years ago and survived violent attacks by her ex-partner, who was later jailed.

She escaped a second abusive relationship five years ago after lodging numerous complaints to the PSNI about coercive behaviour that eventually escalated into a physical attack.

This man received a suspended sentence, but Ms Sweeney said her trauma was exacerbated by the police response.

She said with the exception of one PSNI sergeant, officers lacked understanding of coercive control and failed to fully investigate the abuse by her ex-partner.

She lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman in 2016, which was upheld.

But after a recent encounter with the PSNI over safety concerns at her home, Ms Sweeney again felt officers had little understanding of domestic abuse.

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She said it was important that every officer received training on how to deal with victims.

"My experiences at the hands of these men were exacerbated by the way the police investigated what I reported and by the way they treated me as a victim," she said.

Ms Sweeney is being supported by Sinn Fein councillor Michaela Boyle, who is also a champion for victims of domestic abuse.

She said: "The PSNI is most often the first point of contact for victims of domestic abuse so it is of critical importance all victims have confidence that they will be listened to, and will be morally supported.

"I know there is increased reporting of domestic violence from both women and men, which is what we want and so many of them have had a very positive response, but it is essential that every victim has a positive response."

Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch said: "As a police service we work to keep people safe.

"Our role is about prevention, protection and prosecution - to prevent further violence, to protect victims, children and other vulnerable people and to facilitate the prosecution of offenders.

"We work closely with statutory and voluntary agencies to ensure anyone who suffers domestic abuse gets the help they need, to highlight the issue of domestic abuse and to explore ways in which we can protect our community.

"In addition to uniformed officers trained to respond to and investigate domestic incidents, we have dedicated domestic abuse detectives across Northern Ireland who investigate high risk incidences of domestic abuse crimes.

"All student officers who enter the Police Training College receive a number of lessons in relation to domestic abuse throughout their student officer development programme, that aims to provide students with an understanding as to what constitutes domestic abuse, while also providing an insight into domestic abuse, coercive control and power and control in an abusive relationship."

Mr Corrigan continued: "Domestic abuse remains a priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and we are currently developing a new extensive domestic abuse training package that all frontline officers will receive. This has been designed in collaboration with external partners who are experts in this field."

The 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is 0808 802 1414.


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