New domestic violence legislation that has made non-physical abuse a crime would make it more challenging for the Garda to police violence in the home, the chair of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily has said.
And she was also concerned that already two women had been killed in their own homes just over one week into the New Year.
Ms Feehily made her comments on the same day that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said its members had received no training in how best to enforce the new laws.
On Tuesday Elizabeth Piotrowska (57) was killed in an axe attack in her home in Ardee, Co Louth.
Her killing came just four days after Jasmine McMonagle (28) was killed in her home in Killygordon, Co Donegal.
Their deaths came during the first week of operation of the new Domestic Violence Act 2018 .
Ms Feehily said the Policing Authority had constantly pursued the Garda last year in relation to its record in investigation of domestic violence, including killings.
When a review of domestic killings unearthed problems with the way homicides had been classified and counted by the Garda, she said the authority had pursued it with senior management.
That had resulted in a much deeper, 15-year review of cases which was still under way. And in the year ahead the authority would continue ensuring the Garda’s approach to domestic violence was improving.
“The origins of the homicide review were concerns that domestic homicides were not getting the seriousness they deserved,” Ms Feehily said of the 15-year review under way within the Garda.
“There’s a new piece of law now which raises that bar – introduces the notion of coercive control into domestic situations.
“So we wanted to be sure that the guards were thinking about that, considering that in the first week of the new year” there were two deaths already of women in their own homes. “This is something that we will definitely have to take a look at in the course of our work in 2019.”
Under the new Domestic Violence Act 2018 a new offence of coercive control – a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse – has come into force.
Barring orders are also now available much more quickly, and safety orders are also available to those who are in intimate relationships but who are not cohabiting.
However, Agsi has called for training for its members in how to enforce what is a new and very important piece of legislation.
Victims of domestic violence deserve the best protection and support possible
It said its members, more than 2,000 Garda sergeants and inspectors in a force of about 14,000, were concerned across the country at the lack of training.
After a meeting of its national executive on Wednesday, Agsi issued a statement expressing its “deep concerns”.
“Victims of domestic violence deserve the best protection and support possible,” it said.
“We are calling on the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to prioritise training in this area as a matter of urgency.
“Appropriate training delivered in advance of legislation being implemented will ensure the public receive the best possible policing service.”