Important work is carried out by Women’s Aid in the field of domestic violence. I am aware of the recently published report "Femicide Watch 2019" and my Department will of course study it carefully in that context.
As Deputies will be aware, the Government has already considerably strengthened the law and structures targeting domestic violence, as part of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021.
Central to this is the landmark Domestic Violence Act 2018, which came into force on 1 January of this year. Other developments in this area include the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which introduced a statutory definition of consent, and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017, which provides a wide range of measures and services to protect and inform victims during the progress of their case through the Criminal Justice system.
Implementation of the Second National Strategy is monitored on an ongoing basis and actions may be added to it by agreement of the monitoring committee which is made up of representatives from state agencies and the community and voluntary sector. A mid term review of the implementation of the strategy is underway and will be completed in full consultation with all stakeholders, including Women’s Aid.
An Garda Síochána is also continuously improving its specialist services. Responding to the needs of victims has seen the rollout of Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs) with specially trained officers responsible for investigations, including engagement with victims. These Units will support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual and domestic crime. 13 DPSUs have now been rolled out and I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that they will be in place nationwide by the end of Quarter 1, 2020.
The introduction of these measures supported Ireland’s ratification this year of the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), which I announced on International Women's Day last March.
In May the Government supported my proposal to commission a study into familicide and domestic homicide reviews. This independent, specialist research will look at two particular issues:
- the provision of supports to families who are victims of familicide; and
- international best practice in the conduct of Domestic Homicide Reviews.
Norah Gibbons is leading the study with Grainne McMorrow SC and Forensic Criminologist Dr Jane Monckton Smith. This team brings vast experience and a wide specialist expertise and included a period for consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including State agencies, family members of victims and NGOs.
While familicide is relatively rare in Ireland, these events have a devastating impact on those left behind, both family members and the wider community. The study will examine how such supports can be provided in a more systemic and integrated way. The study will attempt to ensure that victims of familicide are supported in as compassionate and timely a way as possible; as well as how local communities who experience the horror of familicide cases in their local areas can be best supported.
In parallel to that study, in the context of the categorisation and recording of homicides An Garda Síochána is currently conducting a review of the investigation of certain homicides which includes a number of domestic homicides.
Separately to this, An Garda Siochána is developing policies and procedures to inform the overall policing approach to domestic homicides. This includes a Domestic Homicide Review Team in the Garda National Protective Services Bureau examining a small number of domestic homicides of relevance for review. The purpose of such reviews is to examine what lessons, if any, should be learned and what potential changes to relevant policing policy and procedures should be introduced. It is intended that such a course of action will result in an improved response by An Garda Síochána in the handling of domestic violence and/or abuse into the future and ultimately reduce the number of domestic related homicides in our society.