Northern Ireland

Domestic violence: Highest figures since NI records began

Domestic violence, controlling and coercive behaviour Image copyright Getty Images

The PSNI recorded its highest ever figure for incidents of domestic violence in Northern Ireland in the 12 months leading up to September 2018.

Between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018, there were 31,008 domestic abuse incidents recorded.

The figure represents an increase of 5.4% on the previous 12 months and is the highest since records began in 2004/05.

On average, police officers respond to an incident every 17 minutes.

The PSNI launched its annual domestic abuse Christmas campaign on Wednesday.

'Walking on eggshells'

Scheduled to run until mid-January, its aim is to encourage the reporting of incidents and show victims they can take steps to prevent it.

Its message, 'If you feel like you're walking on eggshells, that's domestic abuse', will be promoted via online advertising across Northern Ireland.

Det Supt Ryan Henderson, from the PSNI's public protection branch, appealed to victims "not to suffer in silence".

"Domestic abuse doesn't only occur at Christmas, it happens all year round," he said.

Image caption PSNI Det Supt Ryan Henderson appealed to victims not to 'suffer in silence'

"Unfortunately, however, we know over the Christmas period incidents of domestic abuse rise, and when we look at the figures from last year's campaign, which ran from 15 December until 16 January, the highest level of incidents reported to police was on New Year's Day, when we received a total of 142 calls for help, compared to 147 the previous year."

On Christmas Day 2017, there were 84 incidents reported to police - a drop from 96 from the previous year.

'Terrifying crime'

Commenting on the overall spike, Det Supt Henderson said: "These stark figures tell us more victims are finding the courage to pick up the phone and make a report, which is encouraging, but we must always remember that behind each statistic is a victim.

"Unfortunately, many incidents of domestic abuse still go unreported, but we hope this campaign will go some way towards changing that."

In March, the Department of Justice launched The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure (DVADS) scheme, aimed at helping to protect people from becoming a victim of domestic violence or abuse.

It allows a person to make enquiries confidentially to police when they have concerns their partner has a history of abusive behaviour.

Since the introduction of the scheme, 177 applications have been submitted, with 10 disclosures made.

Det Supt Ryan Henderson said: "Previously, it would have been difficult for someone entering a new relationship to find out, or be aware if their new partner had any prior convictions for violence or domestic abuse.

"This scheme makes it possible for people to take that extra step if they are concerned to do what they can to protect themselves."

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