Northern Ireland

PSNI criticised over domestic violence handling

Woman with head in hands
Image caption There were 11,160 recorded domestic abuse crimes in NI from April 2012 to March 2013

An inspection report has criticised the way the police deal with domestic violence in Northern Ireland.

It says the PSNI has failed to implement a series of improvements recommended three years ago.

The Department of Justice estimates one in five women in NI have been victims of domestic abuse, and the police deal with three calls every hour.

There were 11,160 recorded domestic abuse crimes in Northern Ireland from April 2012 to March 2013.

That is the highest figure since records began.

But while the number of reported incidents is rising, Criminal Justice Inspection says the level of detections has fallen.

Three years ago, a CJI report made 13 recommendations for improvements in the handling of domestic abuse incidents

A report published on Tuesday says only one of the 13 recommendations has been achieved, six have been partially achieved, and six have not been achieved.

'Not good enough'

"That is simply not good enough," Brendan McGuigan, the chief criminal justice inspector, said.

"Many of recommendations came from the police themselves. These were things they said they wanted to do, we then translated them into recommendations in our report, only to go back and find only limited progress has been made.

"I believed that in 2010 there was a momentum, I believe going back now in 2013 it's quite clear that they've taken their foot off the pedal."

Inspectors say that while a number of documents and plans were produced in response to their 2010 report, there was not enough action, and victims of domestic violence are not getting the support they deserve.

Technology 'not used'

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Media captionBrendan McGuigan, Criminal Justice Inspector said police aren't doing enough to combat the problem

They say there is a lack of consistency in how the PSNI treats victims of domestic abuse, with decisions taken at local district level, instead of an agreed corporate policy.

The latest report also says police officers are failing to properly use technology like digital cameras to gather evidence.

The CJI say they will return to the issue again with another inspection in 2015.

"We acknowledge that this is a difficult and complex problem and there are no quick fix answers," Mr McGuigan said.

"However, I am convinced that with greater effort and focus from the criminal justice agencies, the unacceptable rises in this type of crime and fall in detection or perpetrators, can be reversed."

In a statement, the PSNI said it recognised that more work needed to be completed within the area of domestic violence and abuse, and was fully committed to implementing the recommendations in the 2010 report.

"Strategically, and at day to day local level, we remain absolutely committed to the protection and welfare of victims and will continue to work with partner agencies and victim support groups to help and support them," Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said.

"Whilst we are encouraged to see more victims coming forward and making the brave decision to tell police what has happened to them, there are still many who are suffering in silence.

"A 24-hour domestic and sexual violence helpline is also available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual violence, now or in the past. It is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence on 0808 802 1414.

"The PSNI would strongly encourage anyone suffering from domestic abuse to contact their local police on 0845 600 8000. In an emergency, call 999."

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