Call for Government to protect women from domestic abuse

Women’s Aid wants emergency barring orders and creation of criminal offence of stalking

Women’s Aid are calling on the government to address the issue of intimate partner homicide as it holds a minute’s silence outside Leinster House to remember 78 women murdered by their partners or ex-partners since 1996. Video: Bryan O'Brien


Promised emergency barring orders and the creation of a specific criminal offence of stalking would be implemented if the Government was serious about protecting women from domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The claim was made by the Women’s Aid group at an event in which women killed by their partners were remembered outside Leinster House this morning.

The organisation held a minute’s silence for the dead women and some of their murdered children. Each victim was represented by a pair of shoes.

A study of homicide cases by the Women’s Aid since 1996 has found that, on average, one woman was unlawfully killed every month in the Republic. Of the homicide cases that have been concluded in the courts since the survey began, some 78 cases involved women being killed by partners or former partners. Some 10 children had been killed alongside their others in those attacks.

Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin said it was clear from concerns raised in a report into how the Garda investigates crime, published by the Garda Inspectorate last week, that the policing culture in the Republic often minimised violence against women.

She added international research referred to in the report suggested police response times to emergency calls involving damage to property were faster than responses to domestic violence cases.

She also pointed to the very small number of arrests of domestic violence suspects in cases that were responded to by the Garda as evidence that changes needed to be made to the force’s approach to the area.

Women who were attacked and abused in their homes needed to be able to avail of emergency barring orders immediately rather than be forced to wait until the courts opened to apply for one.

Very often, domestic abuse cases were a precursor to women being murdered, ssaid Ms Martin.

“Risk factors for intimate partner homicide include physical abuse, threats to kill, controlling behaviour, stalking and harassment,” Ms Martin said. “Separation is also a risk factor for escalating violence and is often the most dangerous time for women in abusive relationships.”

When women called the Women’s Aid hotline, they often disclosed “shocking” levels of abuse they felt was not being taken seriously by the State.

“Women spoke of inconsistent responses by the State institutions and agencies such as the courts and gardaí,” Ms Martin said. “These experiences were supported by the recent Garda Inspectorate report which, despite highlighting cases of good practice, showed up very gaps in the official response to domestic abuse cases.”

Ms Martin said a recent report by the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice represented an opportunity to build momentum for the introduction of emergency barring orders that could have a real impact in minimising serious threats against women at flashpoint times.

Similarly, momentum needed to be maintained around the creation for a new criminal offence relating to stalking and for the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.