Belfast Telegraph

Government failing victims of domestic abuse, Women’s Aid says

Women’s Aid has called on the Government to introduce domestic homicide reviews.

Women’s Aid has called on the Government to introduce Domestic Homicide Reviews (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Women’s Aid has called on the Government to introduce Domestic Homicide Reviews (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The government is failing victims of domestic violence in its delay to legislate for domestic homicide reviews, Women’s Aid has said.

The domestic abuse and support service has called on the government to “introduce, properly resource and legislate for” formal domestic homicide reviews (DHRs) and increase support for families bereaved due to domestic homicide.

“Until reviews happen Ireland is failing to put in place the best strategies for high-risk victims of domestic violence, leaving them vulnerable to escalating abuse and, in extreme cases, homicide,” a new report says.

Women’s Aid launched its Femicide Watch 2019 report on Friday, revealing that women in Ireland are more likely to be killed in their own homes and at the hands of a man they know.

It was noted at the event that not one politician or representative in their place attended the launch, Women’s Aid chief executive Sarah Benson said she was “disappointed” and encouraged delegates to take it up with politicians during the general election.

Speaking at the event in Dublin City Council’s Wood Quay was Frank Mullane MBE, whose sister and nephew were murdered in 2003, sparking his campaign to ensure that domestic homicide reviews became law in England.

Mr Mullane said that families can suffer secondary trauma when dealing with services, and any DHR must include the family at every step.

He also warned against reviews whose purpose is to find blame with stakeholders or agencies, like police or social workers.

“I’m really disturbed when I see rave reviews that say ‘this came out of the blue, there was no contact with agencies’,” he said

“The job of a domestic review is to find that trail of abuse and this time, put solutions in place to try to stop that.

“You have to go and ask questions, and in order for that to work successfully we need to free people to speak honestly.

“Very often I’ve seen blame on individuals which is completely unjust.

“(What) I often see, which I think is a disgraceful waste of public money, are states put up a review which is an illusion.

“There’s some kind of orgy of anger directed at someone, usually a junior employee, and we are supposed to believe in the public that the world is safer after that.

“It’s a game.

“I want the kind of review, which is really truthful and honest mature and adult which frees people to talk about the reality.”

Five women have died this year, four of which were killed at the hands of an intimate partner or husband, and in their own homes.

These figures should shame Irish society. The lives of the women and children named in our report were so valuable, so full of potential which is now unrealised. Sarah Benson, Women's Aid

Ms Benson said DHRs are essential to prevented further deaths, violence and grief for families.

“Our primary focus today is the prospect of the system for domestic homicide reviews, and this is a really timely theme,” she said.

“We’re poised to gather the learning from other jurisdictions and reflect on our own capacity and commitment to try and do more to prevent murders like these. ”

In May 2019, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan established an expert study on familicide and domestic homicide reviews to look at best practice in supporting families bereaved by familicide and to identify international best practice in domestic homicide reviews.

The study is carrying out a public consultation and should report to government within 12 months.

Fianna Fail spokeswoman on equality, immigration and integration, Fiona O’Loughlin echoed the calls from Women’s Aid.

“Usually there is no thorough criminal investigation in situations of domestic homicide where an individual or family has been killed and the person responsible then proceeds to kill himself or herself,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this leaves many unanswered questions.

“In the UK similar legislation provides for a multidisciplinary review of a domestic homicide and includes input from the police, social services and local authorities.

“Most importantly it seeks to find out if lessons can be learned and if we can prevent them from happening in the future.

“The legislation is published and ready to be progressed, it’s up to the government to move it along.”

Some 230 women have been killed, and 16 children have died alongside their mothers since Women’s Aid records began in 1996, while almost nine in 10 of them were killed by a man they knew (87%).

The Women’s Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline can be contacted on 1800 341 900.

PA

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