Justice Minister David Ford has launched a public consultation calling for views on a potential new offence of domestic abuse and the establishment of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
The consultation looks at whether a specific offence to capture patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships should be introduced in law; and asks if current arrangements could be enhanced by the establishment of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme in Northern Ireland.
David Ford said: “Domestic violence and abuse happens every day in homes across Northern Ireland. As Justice Minister I am committed to doing all I can to tackle this serious issue. While there is no doubt that much progress has been made, I am keen to hear the views of victims, the public and interested parties on what more can be done to strengthen current arrangements.
“It is now widely recognised that domestic abuse is not just about violence. Coercive and controlling behaviour can be more difficult to identify but can have an equally devastating impact on victims. In recognising this, the draft “Stopping Domestic Violence and Abuse Strategy” includes a revised definition of domestic abuse to capture coercive and controlling behaviour. This consultation seeks views on whether the law needs to be strengthened to keep pace with these developments and create a specific offence to capture these patterns of behaviour in intimate relationships.
“I also recognise that whilst we protect victims, we must work to prevent these incidents happening in the first place. Therefore this consultation is also seeking views on whether current arrangements can be enhanced by the establishment of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme in Northern Ireland. Such a scheme, would be based on processes that would enable new partners of previously violent individuals to find out about their partner’s history of violence and abuse. They could then make informed choices about how and whether they take that relationship forward.”
In conclusion David Ford said: “The issues outlined in the consultation document are serious and complex. I would encourage the public, key stakeholders and interested parties to take time to read the document and the options outlined and to come forward with views. I am particularly interested in hearing from victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and those who support them.
“These horrendous crimes will not be tolerated in our society and I can assure those affected that my Department will continue to take measures to protect victims and improve the support and services that they are entitled to receive.”
This consultation is part of a range of initiatives the Minister has committed to progress to tackle domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland.
David Ford encouraged responses to the consultation, which will last for a period 12 weeks and closes on 29 April 2016.