Belfast Telegraph

'Tables get more justice than victims of domestic violence in Northern Ireland', says ex-Justice Minister Sugden

By Mark Edwards

A table receives more justice than victims of domestic violence in Northern Ireland, former justice minister Claire Sugden has said.

The east Londonderry MLA’s comments come after Judge Barney McElholm called for heavier sentencing powers in Northern Ireland when it comes to domestic violence.

The judge's comments relate to a case heard at the Magistrates Court in Londonderry which saw Michael Paul James McIntyre receive a sentence of five months in jail for assaulting two women and eight months for punching a table with his fist.

Ms Sugden, speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, said the lack of an Executive at Stormont has prevented legislation she worked on as justice minister, which would impose tougher sentences for perpetrators of domestic violence, from being enacted.

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Appeal: Judge Barney McElholm

“In 2018 we don’t have a law because we don’t have an Executive,” she said.

“I have said this consistently through this passed awful 13 months of no governance in Northern Ireland. Politicians are absolutely letting down victims of domestic violence abuse in Northern Ireland.

"This piece of legislation is absolutely a work in progress. We are at a stage now that, had an Executive been up and running, this would have been introduced into the assembly.

"We are long passed the point where Northern Ireland should have a domestic violence law. Other parts of the United Kingdom do, but we don’t.”

Ms Sugden estimated that, had an Assembly been in place, new legislation on domestic violence would have been enacted by October 2017.

She said: “Judge McElholm is absolutely right to point out that a table receives more justice than victims of domestic violence in Northern Ireland do, and that’s wrong.”

The MLA added that a maximum sentence of six months in prison for domestic violence is “disturbing, wrong and shameful.”

The maximum sentence for criminal damage is four times than that of domestic violence in Northern Ireland.

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