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Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women calls for Domestic Homicide Reviews

Published: Friday, December 06, 2019

The Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, an independent network of 18 grassroots and national organisations, will hold an important seminar, this Friday 6 December 2019, with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris as a keynote speaker.
The Observatory calls for Domestic Homicide Reviews to be put on a legislative basis

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid said,
“We are still failing when it comes to protecting women from intimate partner violence, and preventing this violence from occurring in the first place. This is in spite of a welcome and rapid legislative transformation process that was necessary to ensure that we meet our obligations under the recently ratified Istanbul Convention. Women continue to be hurt and abused, and women continue to be murdered in their own homes. We can and we must use the current momentum to do more to prevent this harm and to protect women and their children.”

“An urgent requirement to help protect women and children and prevent fatal violence is the establishment of multi-agency domestic homicide reviews, on a legislative basis. In other jurisdictions, Domestic Homicide Reviews are used to improve risk assessment and to manage and identify gaps in policy and practice, following the killing of women.

Our hope is that domestic homicide reviews will, among their other essential objectives, help to reveal patterns or behaviours of abuse that may predict when someone’s life is in serious or imminent danger. Risk assessment by key stakeholders are also of critical importance, and there are welcome developments in this area within An Garda Siochana. These will hopefully contribute to saving lives, provided the investment of resources to roll out and evaluate the use of risk assessment tools effectively is sustained.”

Sarah Benson continued:
“It is time that we reimagined new ways to eliminate violence against women. Living a life free from violence and abuse is a basic human right. Too often, the responsibility rests too heavily on the shoulders of those abused to find ways to escape and seek safety, and this must change.

Regrettably, in most cases, it is the woman who is expected to develop safety strategies, to be vigilant and protect herself and her children. This is an exhausting and unfair burden for an innocent party to bear and would not be expected of any other victim of crime. Abusers behaviour could of course be curtailed through imposition of Barring, Safety and Emergency Orders but we have seen all too often that these orders are breached, disregarded and disrespected by abusers.  Frequently, breaches of orders are not taken seriously enough by the judiciary. This severely and unacceptably undermines the potential protections offered by the law, leaving victims feeling they have to fend for themselves. The burden of responsibility must lie on the shoulders of those who incite fear, intimidation and control – to stop, to change, to leave – or to face meaningful criminal sanctions.”

Sarah Benson concluded,
“In addition to the critical role of the Criminal Justice System, and the need for specialist support services, what we need is whole community awareness raising about both, early signs and high risk indicators of abuse in an intimate relationship. This is where prevention can occur. We know that most victims suffer over extended periods without ever contacting the Gardai. Social recognition that coercive and controlling behaviour is a serious affront to a woman’s dignity, and liberty - as well as a crime – is critical to ensure the majority of victims are offered the support and assistance they may need. The Government/State response cannot therefore be limited, constrained and cautious but must instead be bold, open, brave and creative to drive systemic change and end violence and abuse which has been tacitly accepted and tolerated for far too long.”

Maria Dempsey will be a panellist on the day. Maria is an advocate for reducing incidents of domestic homicide/ violence & abuse since the homicide of her daughter Alicia, who was murdered in 2010 in Irelands 1st quadruple murder. Alicia died alongside Sarah, mother of Reece 3 and Amy 5 months. Maria will speak about her personal experience of domestic violence, how the media reports on such cases and the impact that this has on the families affected. She will also speak about her advocacy work following the tragic murder of her daughter, Alicia, and what needs to change to prevent further violence against women.

The event will be Chaired by Ellen Coyne, Senior Journalist at Joe.ie.
Other speakers include:

  • Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
  • Norah Gibbons (Chair of the independent review into familicide and domestic homicide)
  • Ellen O’Malley Dunlop (Chairperson, NWCI)
  • Prof. Shane Kilcommins (head of School of Law, UL)
  • Jennifer McCarthy Flynn (Head of Policy, NWCI)
  • Ciara Carberry (Dept. of Justice and Equality)
  • Tessa Collins (Violence Against women, Pavee Point)
  • Maria Dempsey (Survivor/Advocate)
  • Sarah Benson (CEO Women’s Aid, NWCI Board member)
  • Frances Fitzgerald (MEP)

The event is being organised in conjunction with the European Parliament.

What: Event held by Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women
When: 6 December 2019 10 am – 1.30 pm
Where: The Morrison Hotel, Ormond Quay Lower, North City, Dublin 1

Ends /
For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications Officer, NWCI, 085 8619087

Notes to Editors:
The Irish Observatory on Violence against Women is an independent network of grassroots and national organisations that monitor progress on responses to violence against women in Ireland, convened by the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Current members include the National Women’s Council of Ireland (chair and convenor), Akidwa, Action Aid Ireland, Ascend, Cairde, Cork Sexual Violence Centre, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Galway Rape Crisis Centre, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Oxfam, Longford Women’s Centre, Love & Care for People, National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN), Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Ruhama, Sonas Domestic Violence Charity, Women’s Aid and YWCA Ireland.