Domestic violence-related homicides in UK at 5 year high

By Lenore Rice

There were 173 deaths as a result of domestic violence in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK last year, a significant jump up from the 141 recorded in 2017, and the highest level in 5 years.

Domestic abuse is widely considered to be an issue between partners and spouses but also includes violence and abuse by family members. And while domestic abuse campaigners rightfully stress that both men and women can be victims, the statistics on domestic violence-related homicides show that women are the victims in the majority of cases and that the suspects are predominantly male. Approximately one quarter of victims were male.

New domestic abuse legislation for England and Wales has been stalled as a result of the suspension of the parliament, though Prime Minister Boris Johnston has since confirmed that he will be reintroducing domestic abuse legislation in the next session.

The Domestic Abuse Bill received cross party support in July, and among other measures includes a legal duty on councils to offer secure housing for victims of domestic abuse who are fleeing their abusers. It also proposes the first government definition of abuse, the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and the creation of Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to allow the police and courts to intervene when there suspicions of abuse. In July it was confirmed that the Bill would be extended to Northern Ireland.

While campaigners have supported the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill, and previously the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, referred to as 'Clare's Law', there has been criticism that there has been too much emphasis on legislation, and not enough efforts to improve the resources and co-ordination of police forces, health services, education, and social services. There also been concerns that existing measures such as Non-Molestation orders are not being enforced sufficiently to provide adequate protection to victims and their children.

That deaths as a result of domestic violence are at a 5 year high despite increased efforts to raise awareness in recent years should set alarm bells ringing at the scale of the problem. The moves being made, albeit far too slowly, are a positive step in the right direction in the fight to tackle domestic abuse. In the meantime, victims need to do everything they can with the measures available to them.

If you have any concerns about your partner you can receive information on their history of abusive behaviour and any potential risk they pose by making an application under the Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme by going to https://www.psni.police.uk/crime/domestic-abuse/dvads .

If you would like to speak to a family law solicitor specialising in domestic abuse about issues such as emergency and subsequent Court Orders including Non-molestation and Occupation Orders, Injunctions and Matrimonial Home rights to protect you and your children's interests, click here.