Huge increase in domestic violence charges in 2020, Garda report finds

Garda charged 4,000 people with breaching barring orders

Over 7,600 criminal charges “involving an element of domestic abuse” were brought against suspects Image: iStock

Over 7,600 criminal charges “involving an element of domestic abuse” were brought against suspects Image: iStock

 

Almost 8,000 charges relating to domestic abuse were brought against alleged offenders last year, an increase of 24 per cent.

The figures are contained in the Garda’s annual report for 2020 which detailed how the force responded to the challenges of Covid-19.

The Garda received roughly 43,500 calls relating to domestic abuse incidents last year, 17 per cent more than in 2019. Over 7,600 criminal charges “involving an element of domestic abuse” were brought against suspects.

Another 4,000 charges were brought for breaches of existing domestic violence orders, a 24 per cent increase on the previous year.

In expectation of an increase in domestic violence at the start of the pandemic, gardaí launched Operation Faoiseamh “to provide enhanced proactive support and protection to victims of domestic abuse”.

Under the operation, gardaí made 22,795 contacts or attempted contacts with domestic abuse victims. Over 217 individual prosecutions were taken against alleged offenders as a direct result of the operation.

“Given the limitations on movement placed on people, we knew domestic violence would increase. A dedicated operation was put in place that saw a significant level of contacts made with victims of domestic abuse and prosecutions taken against perpetrators,” Commissioner Drew Harris said.

Gardaí also focused on organised crime in an effort to prevent gangs taking advantage of the pandemic. “In particular, significant amounts of drugs, cash and guns were seized, and major figures in organised crime gangs were brought before the courts. This work saved lives and degraded the capacity of such crime gangs,” Mr Harris said.

“Low level street dealing was also targeted by Divisional Drug Units to support communities blighted by this.”

Twenty three firearms and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition were seized during the year, along with over €36 million worth of drugs. Just under €8 million in cash was also seized.

The Garda said it has thwarted 75 assassination attempts since the Regency Hotel shooting in 2016, including two in 2020.

Operation Thor, targeting burglary gangs, has resulted in a 42 per cent drop in residential break-ins since 2015 and a 33 per cent drop in non-domestic burglaries. Over 14,000 suspects have been arrested as part of the operation.

Thirty eight cases of human trafficking were reported to the Garda in 2020, 9.5 per cent less than the previous year.

The Armed Support Unit carried out 177 searches in support of frontline officers in 2020. The Emergency Response Unit carried out 80 firearms operations, including 36 “high risk searches”.

Garda negotiators dealt with 93 “hostage/barricade/suicide” type incidents in 2020. Twenty five of these incidents ended with the use of Garda force while 18 were negotiated to a peaceful conclusion.

The Garda National Cybercrime Bureau dealt with 282 cases last year, including 160 cases of child abuse imagery or exploitation.

Forensic examiners identified more than 10 victims of child sexual exploitation and helped to bring the offenders to justice, the Garda said.

Mr Harris also signed an information sharing agreement with UK police which allows data to be exchanged on child abuse images and grants the Garda access to the UK’s Child Abuse Image Database.