Northern Ireland Assembly passes domestic abuse legislation

Creation of laws allowing for heavy prison sentences approved by MLAs

Alliance Party leader and Minister for Justice Naomi Long told domestic abuse victims: ‘Do not be afraid to speak out and to reach out for help. Help is there. You will be heard, you will be believed, you will be supported.’

Alliance Party leader and Minister for Justice Naomi Long told domestic abuse victims: ‘Do not be afraid to speak out and to reach out for help. Help is there. You will be heard, you will be believed, you will be supported.’

 

Legislation creating a domestic abuse offence has been by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The new law includes the creation of a domestic abuse offence, allowing for heavier sentences where children are involved, and strong penalties for any wrongdoing where domestic abuse is associated with it. Someone convicted of the worst criminality could potentially face up to 14 years in prison.

No dissenting voices were raised when it came to a vote and the bill will go forward for Royal Assent.

Minister for Justice Naomi Long told victims: “Do not be afraid to speak out and to reach out for help.

“Help is there. You will be heard, you will be believed, you will be supported.

“There is a better and a safer future for you,” the Alliance leader said. “Justice can and justice will be done.”

During the 12 months to September last year, 32,015 domestic abuse incidents were reported and 18,885 crimes.

The minister paid tribute to the victims and their advocates, adding it presented a new opportunity now the law recognised the harm as abuse.

Ms Long said: “They are members of our community, we know them and they know us.

“Do not suffer in silence, do not feel guilt or shame.”

The Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Bill has been one of her top priorities since taking office a year ago.

TUV leader Jim Allister raised a point surrounding the prosecution of those with the intention to commit an offence, while others felt the legislation could have gone further in some areas.

Ms Long said she planned to bring forward proposals for a victims commissioner in future.

Ms Long also addressed the gendered nature of domestic violence and toxic masculinity.

“There is nothing strong or compelling about a man who has to resort to his fists to make his point.

“We need as a society to stop upholding the strong over the thoughtful and considered. It is not a healthy place to be in society.”

She said the defence of reasonable chastisement should be removed, but acknowledged strong views on the matter held by some people of faith and articulated by the DUP’s Mervyn Storey on Monday.

The minister also introduced proposals for a stand-alone Protection from Stalking Bill to the Assembly.

It will create a specific offence of stalking and include provision for the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders to Northern Ireland. - PA