Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (2)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

2. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if legislation will be introduced to provide for domestic homicide reviews as have been introduced in the UK (details supplied). [12167/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Justice)

Tá an dá cheist ceangailte i slite. Tá go leor cainte agus díospóireachta le cúpla seachtain anuas faoi chás uafásach Clodagh Hawe agus a teaghlach. Roinnt de na rudaí a bhíothas ag iarraidh ná an Bille Cróinéirí (Leasú) 2018, a bhfuil an Teachta Collins tar éis déileáil leis, aistriú reachtaíochta, agus maoiniú. Bhí ceisteanna ann faoi cé a fhaigheann maoiniú fresin. Ceann de na rudaí a bhí á bplé ná go bhfuil gá le hathbhreithniú maidir le dúnmharaithe a tharlaíonn sa bhaile. Táimid láidir den tuairim go bhfuil gá leis sin. Táim ag súil go dtógfaidh an Rialtas sin ar bord agus go gcuirfidh sé reachtaíocht ar bun cosúil leis an reachtaíocht atá ann i Sasana.

I thank the Deputy for his question and I assure him that I am giving careful consideration to the issue. I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is currently developing new policies and procedures to inform its approach to domestic homicide reviews in An Garda Síochána.  It is envisaged that these reviews will examine the sufficiency of Garda policies in this area, their interactions with other external agencies and with the individuals and family concerned.

The reviews will be a separate exercise to the investigation of the domestic homicide and their purpose is to serve as a lessons learned review to facilitate better practice in the approach to domestic abuse. This is a useful and necessary practice and will assist An Garda Síochána in seeking to continuously improve their approach to domestic abuse.

As the Deputy is aware, a range of other agencies may be involved in such cases in addition to An Garda Síochána.  As I announced following my recent meeting with the Coll family, my Department is currently preparing terms of reference for a study on the support needs of family members where a murder-suicide has occurred.  As I have said, I envisage this study also examining the process of domestic homicide reviews and experience to date in other jurisdictions, with a view to making recommendations in relation to their application in this jurisdiction. One such recommendation may include proposed legislative changes. I look forward to engaging further with the House in relation to the recommendations arising from this study, which will be carried out by a person with appropriate experience and expertise.

Tá an-suim agam sa mhéid atá ráite ag an Aire. Tá sé cuibhseach nua i gcomhthéacs an mhéid atá ráite aige cheana.

Deputy McDonald had two asks when she raised this case in the Dáil a number of weeks ago. The first was that the Minister meet the family of Clodagh Hawe. I acknowledge he has done that. The second was about the need for legislation governing domestic homicide reviews. That is provided for under British legislation which will be extended to the North after public consultation. It is vitally important. The Minister has made reference to the processes that An Garda Síochána has put in place. That is not based in statute and is not automatically multi-agency.

I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say. It sounds to me that he has an open mind to legislative change that would put in place something similar to what exists in Britain. If that is the case, and the Minister confirms that, it would be welcome. What is the timescale for this study on support needs that might give rise to such a recommendation?

As I said in reply to Deputy Collins, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to engage face to face with members of the Coll family and listen to them outline their experience and their suggestions arising therefrom. I am anxious to broaden that and involve research that includes other families and their experiences over the past number of years.

It could well be that legislative change will be required here. That is why my Department and I are closely monitoring developments in other jurisdictions, particularly in England and Wales. In those jurisdictions, a domestic homicide review is a locally conducted, multi-agency review of the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 years or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, neglect or abuse. These reviews were introduced in legislation in Britain which came into force in April 2011. The purpose is not to reinvestigate the death, or indeed to apportion blame, but to establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide about the way in which the local professionals and organisations work.

I agree that there are lessons we can learn from other jurisdictions and we are doing that.

Tá sé ceart go mbeadh muid ag féachaint ar dlinsí eile. The need for a domestic homicide review is a long-standing demand of Sinn Féin and other organisations such as Women's Aid. The 27 cases of familicide that the Minister and Deputy Collins referred to are to the fore of our minds but they cannot be separated from a wider picture of serious issues of domestic violence and murders. Nine of ten murdered women are killed by someone who knows them. Half of them are killed by a current or former partner. Some 61% are killed in their homes and there have been 225 of those cases since 1996 as of November last.

This is a serious issue and I hope the Minister recognises there is a need for legislation in this area. There is also a need for this to be based on a multi-agency basis. Organisations such as Tusla have a central role to play in any such legislation. Can the Minister give us a timeline as to when all this will be completed? He indicated that he saw value in other legislative provisions. When can we expect the recommendations to that effect to be made, if indeed they will be made?

I ask the Deputy to accept that this is obviously complex and, therefore, time-consuming. What An Garda Síochána is doing in terms of its review of homicides involves experts on the force and in the Central Statistics Office, CSO, ensuring that the information and data acquired is accurate and robust. I acknowledge that there is evidence of improvement in the recording process and in data quality. I agree with Deputy Ó Laoghaire that more work needs to be done to ensure a consistent statistical product. An Garda Síochána continues to work with the CSO.

With regard to outside agencies, it is important that we look at international best practice in this regard. The Northern Ireland Department of Justice recently concluded a public consultation on a proposed model for the introduction of domestic homicide reviews. Here, we will have the advantage of looking at this alongside experiences and developments in England and Wales. I am very keen that we act on this without delay.