Men who kill partners get lighter sentences than men who kill strangers

Women’s Aid forum told criminal system less harsh on those killing intimate partners


Men who kill their wives or girlfriends get significantly less jail time than men who take the life of a woman that they do not know, new figures suggest.

A man who kills an intimate female partner and is convicted of manslaughter receives an average sentence of 7.8 years. The average sentence for a man who kills a woman he didn’t share a romantic relationship with, including strangers and relatives, is 10.6 years in prison, a difference of 2.8 years.

The study, carried out by Women’s Aid, analysed 26 cases involving the manslaughter of women by men since 1996. Murder cases were not included as the penalty for murder is an automatic life sentence, no matter the circumstances of the death.

“This would suggest that the criminal justice system is less severe for intimate partners for this most lethal form of violence,” the report states.

The study also found that men charged with the murder of their current or former intimate partner are more likely to be convicted of manslaughter instead, meaning a lesser sentence.

Although men are at far greater risk of being murdered in general, women are more likely to be killed by someone they know. Since 1996, 216 women have died at the hands of another, an average of 10 women a year.

Of the 171 cases of female homicide which have been resolved in the courts, 56 per cent of victims were killed by a current or former male partner. Just 12 per cent were killed by a stranger.

Out of the 22 murder suicides involving female victims since 1996, 21 were carried out by a current or former partner. Sixteen children have been killed alongside their mothers, with 14 dying at the hands of a current or former partner of their mother.

The study found that there was a clear history of domestic violence before the killing in 33 per cent of cases. This figure is based on newspaper reports of court cases and the report notes it could be far higher as most domestic violence is hidden.

Women are particularly at risk when they threaten to leave an abusive partner. In 15 of the court cases examined, the victim was considering, or in the process of, leaving the relationship.

A recent UK report which examined a much larger data pool found that three quarters of women killed by an ex-partner were killed in the first year after separation. One-third were killed within a month.

Women aged between 26 and 25 are most at risk of dying at the hands of a partner. Stabbing (38 per cent) was the most common method of killing followed by strangulation (29 per cent).

Women’s Aid is calling on the government to introduce legislation making the killing of a intimate partner an aggravating factor when sentencing. This would bring Ireland in line with Article 46 of the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence.

“This would acknowledge the unique position the killer was in including the fact that they had intimate knowledge of and access to their victim and so brutally betrayed that trust.”

The group also recommends the establishment of a Domestic Homicide Review mechanism, which would analyse domestic killings on an ongoing basis and make recommendations on how to combat them.


• Eight women have died violently in 2017.

• A total of 216 women have died violently since 1996.

A total of 171 cases (79 per cent) have been resolved.

Nine cases (4 per cent) are due for trial, 36 cases (17 per cent) are


Women under the age of 35 account for 49 per cent of cases.

• Sixteen children were killed alongside their mothers.

• Two-thirds of victims are killed in the family home.

• Stabbing is the most common form of killing.

• A total of 88 per cent of women knew their killers.

• One in every two women victims are killed by a current or former male

intimate partner.

• In almost all murder-suicide cases (21 out of 22), the killer was the

woman’s partner or ex-partner.

• In the 20 cases where a woman has been killed by a male relative, 16 were

killed by their sons (80 per cent).