There needs to be a focus on data sharing and reviews in cases of family and domestic violence deaths, the chief executive of Women’s Aid has said.
The Study on Familicide and Domestic and Family Violence Death Reviews, just published by acting Minister for Justice Simon Harris, is a landmark study with recommendations that need legislative backing, Sarah Benson said.
The report was commissioned by the Department of Justice and makes a number of recommendations. It consulted a wide range of stakeholders including family members of victims, non-governmental organisations and State agencies.
Ms Benson, one of the advisers to those doing the study, told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that all involved were “absolutely committed” to “creating something that would give us a roadmap for how we might learn from some of the most awful cases we have seen in our society” and “hopefully prevent” these.
This would also “support those families who unfortunately, will in the future, be bereaved in these violent circumstances much better than before,” she said.
Ms Benson said although the report contained many recommendations there were many “small things” that could be done, and she called for a focus on legislative change that would allow for appropriate data sharing.
“That’s a huge impediment at the moment. We look to other jurisdictions who have family and domestic violence death reviews well established. We do need legislation here. And so for us, we think what we would like to see next is an understanding of what the vehicle is going to be carried through these recommendations.”
Ms Benson said the report contained recommendations around training, awareness, and education around understanding the dynamics of control. It was very clear from the figures that domestic violence was a “red flag” for potential fatal violence, she added.
She said the recommendations “should not be dispersed across different Government departments, across different sections. Neither should they be cascaded into a smaller group or agency”.
“At the moment there is the new domestic violence agency being established in the Department of Justice, we would be concerned that there might be an instinct to move the responsibility for this report’s recommendations in there. This actually requires a whole-of-government oversight. It requires legislation.”
In a statement, Mr Harris said: “None of us can begin to understand the appalling impact of something like this unless you’ve lived through it. That’s why we are so grateful to the families for engaging in the process and for giving of themselves and their time.
“It took tremendous bravery and selflessness to use their own experiences of unimaginable pain to make our systems better, and we are indebted to them.”
Following the report’s publication, the Department of Justice will convene an interdepartmental group to examine how to bring forward any recommendations through Zero Tolerance, the Third National Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Strategy.
It is intended to convene a small advisory group of relevant NGOs for consultation as part of the implementation process.
Mr Harris has also committed to an advisory committee drawn from the families to work with the Department of Justice on the recommendations.
Action on a number of recommendations is already under way through the Zero Tolerance strategy.