Belfast Telegraph

PSNI to crack down on abuse by targeting serial offenders using profiling

By Deborah McAleese

The PSNI's Public Protection Unit (PPU) is to draw up a list of serial domestic violence offenders in a proactive attempt to prevent further attacks on their partners, it can be revealed.

Such a move would help police build up detailed profiles of repeat offenders and their offending patterns.

The revelation comes as the Belfast Telegraph continues its End The Silence series raising awareness of domestic abuse issues in Northern Ireland.

In the province it is believed that around 200 convicted domestic violence perpetrators have gone on to reoffend five or more times. "That is why we want to look at this issue of repeat offenders. We have a massive interest in serial perpetrators and how we respond to the risk they pose.

"Targeted intervention is looking at the repeat offenders to see if we can detect those who do offend more," said Detective Chief Inspector David McBurney, of the police's PPU.

"We want to protect the victim and ensure that the suspect is dealt with robustly," he added.

Calls were made this week for the introduction of a new law that would allow women to find out if their partners have an abusive past.

A disclosure scheme - known as Clare's Law - is available in England and Wales. Victims and campaigners have said such a law would save lives, however concerns were raised that it could lead to vigilante attacks.

The law was named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner, and means that anyone who fears a partner is abusive is able to go to the police and ask for any past convictions or complaints to be revealed.

Women's Aid has warned that in Northern Ireland there is currently nothing to prevent dangerous sexual offenders from targeting new victims.

Annie Campbell, director of Women's Aid NI, said such a scheme would be a very critical aspect of empowering women to protect themselves.

Mr McBurney said: "We are talking about disclosing to a person in an intimate domestic relationship whether the person they are in a relationship with has a track record of domestic abuse.

"There is an argument that you have a right to know about the person to whom you have opened up your life.

"There would need to be safeguards.

"But, from a domestic perspective, I want the maximum protection possible for victims."

PSNI statistics show that police receive a call of a domestic abuse nature every 19 minutes.

Other police statistics show:

  • A total of 27,600 domestic abuse incidents and 13,000 crimes were recorded by police over the past year.
  • One in nine crimes reported to the police is domestic in nature.
  • Levels of domestic abuse per head of the population are at their highest in north Belfast.
  • Over 60% of domestic violence with injury offences are related to alcohol.
  • 64% of victims of domestically motivated crimes are adult females, 24% are adult males, and 10% are under 18.
  • Three-quarters of offenders are male and a quarter female. The age of the offender peaks in the 21-30 age group.
  • Ninety-four per cent of offenders are recorded as being from the United Kingdom or Ireland, 3.7% of offenders are from Poland, Lithuania, Portugal and Latvia.

Concern has been raised by victims' campaigners that Stormont budget cuts could have an effect on the policing of domestic violence.

However, despite crippling cuts to the police budget affecting many areas of service within the PSNI, Chief Superintendent George Clarke, who is head of the PPU, insisted that he will "safeguard to the last ditch the protection of vulnerable people".

"We are determined that when you dial 999 you won't know there are budget cuts. We will not give up our service to vulnerable people," he stated.

Case 1: ‘I feel like giving up’

A woman who contacted the helpline was married for 25 years and experienced all forms of abuse during the marriage. She is now going through a difficult divorce. During the relationship she ended up in hospital on numerous occasions with physical injuries, and she has problems with hearing due to the amount of injuries to her head. She also experienced internal injuries due to the sexual abuse. She is still afraid to sleep in the bedroom she shared with her abuser. The victim is a health professional, as is her ex-partner. She said everyone took his side and didn’t believe her because he could be so charming. She feels she has lost everything, though has good support from her grown-up children. “I am exhausted with it all. I sometimes just feel like giving up, like ending it all, but then I think of my children.”

Case 2: ‘My battle over son’

A 40-year-old woman called who “just wanted to talk”. She said she was struggling because it had been so long since she had seen her son.

She had experienced past physical abuse and her ex-partner was using her son to control and manipulate her. A judge had granted a joint residency order so care of their son was being shared. As the years passed her ex-partner began to see less and less of his son. “He lost interest in him.” that was until she told him that her boyfriend was moving in. Her son went to visit his father and never returned home. He refuses to let their son call or see his mother unless it’s supervised and on his terms. She wonders how she is going to get through Christmas. The caller sought legal advice and is in the process of a court battle to make her ex understand that he is in breach of the order.

Case 3: ‘I slept in a cold shed’

A 63-year-old woman phoned asking “Please can you help me?” The woman had been physically and verbally abused by her partner the previous night and he had thrown her out. The woman had spent the night in a neighbour’s unlocked shed and was now walking the streets as she was afraid to return. The woman said that she didn’t need any medical attention as, although she was a bit sore, she was OK. However, she does have spinal problems caused by her husband’s violent attacks over the years. The woman had stayed in her local Women’s Aid refuge years before due to domestic violence. She was happy to go to any Women’s Aid refuge anywhere in order to feel safe, providing she could get there by public transport. “I can’t get the heat into me, it was so cold last night and he threw me out without even my coat."

Case 4: ‘I can’t cope with life’

A woman caller has been married for 45 years to her husband. They live in a rural area in Northern Ireland and the caller is very isolated. She experiences high levels of emotional, financial and sexual abuse from her husband, who is elderly and has a physical disability. The victim experiences high levels of anxiety. She also suffers from panic attacks on a daily basis. Both the woman and her husband are retired and in the house all day together. “I can’t cope with life at the moment, even doing the washing is too much for me, he is always there. “I live in my bedroom, I can’t cook what I want, I can’t buy what I want in the shop as he always checks the outgoings every week, so even a bar of chocolate is a luxury. “I just want peace to sleep at night without fear.”

Case 5: ‘She said it’s her fault’

A woman called regarding her daughter. There was an incident on Saturday night when her daughter was out with her boyfriend and older sister and he hit her.

The older daughter tried to talk to her sister about it and the younger one said it was her own fault and that she had been drinking.

The older sister told the mother about it, and she was very concerned. “I don’t know what to do, I had no idea that this was going on, he seems like such a nice guy, they have been together for a few years and talking about getting married, I am really shocked.”

In a separate call to the helpline a young male student called for support. He said he had been raped by a man at a party. Ever since, he blamed himself for the rape, stopped going to lectures and he hadn’t told anyone. “I feel so dirty and ashamed.”

Case 6: 'I feel like a prisoner'

A woman caller contacted the helpline. At first she said she didn't know if she had called the right place and didn't think it was domestic violence - she thought she was probably making too much out of it. The caller had been in a same-sex relationship with her partner for 10 years.

At first she thought that her partner just really loved her so much that she wanted her to herself, so she stopped going out with friends and visiting family as much. Though now the caller can't even remember the person who she was when she first entered into this relationship, she said she feels different, looks different and that life is just not worth living. She feels as if she lives in a prison with limited control of her finances and what she can do. "I feel like a prisoner in my own home. She actually locks me in the house some days and I am not allowed out," she said.

Case 7: 'It's not worth living'

A female caller has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She is extremely anxious and also afraid to leave the house and interact with anyone.

She lives with her partner who is abusive and has been that way for their whole relationship of around 15 years.

She feels that the domestic violence has caused her mental illness.

She said that he uses her illness against her and blames her for not being able to have children. She is frightened of him as he always putting her down and pushing her around, he has smashed anything of importance to her and there is nothing left to wreck.

She feels that she has nothing to live for any more as her mother recently passed away.

"I feel my life is an empty shell.

"There's nothing left but the dread of him and his key in the door. Life is just not worth living any more."

Case 8: ‘I fear for my mum’

A male caller rang the helpline — he was talking very fast and didn’t take a breath; he was really distressed.

He talked about his mother and her abusive partner.

The caller doesn’t live with his mother any more; he has his own family, but is really concerned about his mother and the manipulation her current partner is carrying out in relation to finances and other important matters.

He said: “I just wish she could see what is happening to her, he’s controlling everything in her life, but she says she loves him.”

  • All accounts are taken from the Women’s Aid Helpline which can be contacted on 0808 802 1414.

Further reading

Domestic abuse: 110 cases a day in Northern Ireland... but that's just tip of iceberg

Clare's law is needed in Northern Ireland so we know abusive partners

Victim speaks out: 'I knew Greg wasn't going to stop beating me until I was dead'

'I tortured all my girlfriends, but I'm sorry now' says domestic abuse perpetrator 

Police body cameras trialled in fight against perpetrators 

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