Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Domestic Violence Act 2018 to provide for the establishment and conduct of Domestic Homicide Reviews.

I seek leave to introduce new legislation entitled the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2019. The purpose of the legislation is to amend the Domestic Violence Act 2018 by introducing a new section providing for the establishment and conduct of what are referred to as "domestic homicide reviews". The origins of the Bill derive from the tragic murder of Ms Clodagh Hawe and her three sons, Liam, Niall and Ryan in August 2016, and the very powerful interview given by Clodagh's sister, Ms Jacqueline Connolly, and her mother, Ms Mary Coll, to the RTÉ broadcaster Ms Claire Byrne on 25 February 2019.

Usually there is no thorough criminal investigation in situations of domestic homicide where a family has been killed and the person responsible then proceeds to kill himself or herself. The reason for this is that the suspected offender is dead and consequently there will not be any criminal prosecution. The Garda fulfils the functions it is required to do in situations like that by assembling statements from the individuals who had the tragic experience of coming upon the crime scene. Gardaí record their statements purely for the purpose of the inquest, which takes place before the coroner. As the House is aware, a coroner has a very limited role in determining what happened. He or she identifies how, where and when the victim died. Aside from that, no answers are given. That makes it extremely difficult for families such as the family of Clodagh Hawe and very many others, who are not given any answers in respect of how these tragic and terrible events occur. In many respects the way we deal with them in Ireland is to regard them as tragic events, which is understandable. We move on and nobody really talks about it.

Since 2004 the United Kingdom has had a different way of dealing with these domestic homicides. Legislation was introduced which provided for the establishment and conduct of what are referred to as "domestic homicide reviews". This commenced in 2011. In the aftermath of a tragic murder such as the ones I have referred to and the many others I have not, the UK authorities take a multidisciplinary approach to identifying any lessons that can be learned. The UK legislation specifically states that this is the objective. The police, social services and local authorities, which have a much more extensive role in the UK than here, get involved in trying to produce a report on how these events occurred. It is important to point out that the function of these reports is not to attribute blame. Sometimes in Ireland we are desperate to attribute blame to individuals. The purpose of these reports is to find out if lessons can be learned and if we can detect these offences and prevent them from happening in the future.

That is the purpose of the legislation I have drafted and am seeking leave to introduce. As I have said, it is entitled the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2019. It proposes to insert a new section into the Domestic Violence Act 2018 providing for circumstances where the Minister or the Garda Commissioner believes that the death of a person was caused by the violence, abuse or neglect of another person to whom the deceased was related, with whom the deceased was in an intimate personal relationship or who shared the same household as the deceased. In these circumstances a review can be ordered.

I have also gone further so that the Bill replicates what is permissible in the UK, where the legislation does not just apply to tragic cases like that of Clodagh Hawe where the suspect proceeds to kill himself. It also applies in situations where there is any domestic homicide and somebody is subsequently convicted. Obviously the review takes place after the conviction. I have sought to provide for that here. It is important to point out that nothing these reviews will do can interfere with or in any way prejudice a criminal investigation. If there is an ongoing criminal investigation, it will be imperative that it concludes before any review is completed. As I said, it is not the review's function to attribute blame. It is about trying to get co-operation from entities such as the Probation Service, Tusla, the HSE or any Department.

The Government will need to assist my party and me with the legislation. This will require the resources and involvement of the Department of Justice and Equality but it is a good start. We need to get domestic homicide reviews onto the Statute Book and for that reason I seek leave to introduce the Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.