Justice Minister Claire Sugden has urged the public to help in eradicating domestic and sexual violence and abuse in Northern Ireland by coming forward to report it.
28,392 domestic abuse incidents and 14,073 domestic abuse crimes were reported to PSNI in 2015/16.
Highlighting a package of initiatives she has driven forward to tackle domestic violence and abuse, Claire Sugden said: “Stopping it is everyone’s responsibility. There is no single solution. But the public can be key to helping eradicate this abuse by reporting it.
“The new domestic abuse offence, to be introduced following Executive endorsement, will have the highest penalty across the UK for this type of crime – and this will send out a very clear message that it will not be tolerated in our society. I would also like to go even further, with a statutory aggravator that will bring enhanced sentencing with other crime types where there is domestic abuse.
“I am committed to the development of a domestic violence disclosure scheme, providing information, where appropriate, to individuals who are concerned that their partner has a violent past. This scheme will be vital in giving police and front line services the opportunity to intervene early where there is abuse, and will be bolstered by a dedicated service to support individuals seeking and receiving information.”
Minister Sugden added: “Innovative approaches are needed to tackle this widely underreported and hidden problem and academic research which I have commissioned into international best practice will help in future action planning.
“My Department is also working with stakeholders to launch a pilot domestic violence perpetrator programme at Derry/Londonderry Magistrates’ Court in the near future, seeking to change behaviour and promote healthy relationships.”
The Minister welcomed the help of partnership working across the sectors in supporting victims and addressing harmful behaviour. And she encouraged anyone with information or concerns about a victim of domestic and sexual violence and abuse to contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers. The 24 hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline is 0808 8021414. Text ‘support’ to 07797805839.