Media Release: Women’s Aid Statement on the Review of Homicides and Issues Raised by Lois West and Laura Galligan at the Joint Oireachtas Committee On Justice and Equality

7 Mar 2018

Today, Women’s Aid, the national organisation supporting women and their children experiencing domestic violence, responds to the appearance of Lois West and Laura Gilligan from the An Garda Síochana Analysis Unit in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid says:

“We are deeply concerned to hear the issues raised today by members of the Garda Analysis Unit at the joint Oireachtas Committee Justice and Equality. First of all, we would like to thank both Laura Galligan and Lois West for bringing to light the issues they have uncovered during the review of homicide cases and for their initiative and perseverance over what sounds like a very difficult and challenging 15 months. There is huge value in the work that they are doing.”

Ms Martin continues:

“The review of homicide cases are a direct result of the findings of the Women’s Aid Femicide Watch and a joint initiative by Women’s Aid and the National Women’s Council of Ireland to raise this issue with then Tanáiste Frances Fitzgerald, T.D in September 2016. At that time we requested a thorough investigation by An Garda Síochána into domestic homicides over a specified time period which was badly needed. We hoped that any such review would bring a greater understanding of the patterns of this type of crime and the potential to identify risks and early intervention.”

Women’s Aid is concerned that this process which was announced in November 2016 has taken so long and believe that delays are preventing the development of a best practice response in relation to domestic violence including risk assessment and risk management.

Ms Martin explains:

“We know through our work supporting women on the 24hr National Freephone Helpline and our face to face services, that the repeat and escalating nature of domestic violence poses a particular risk to the physical and mental well-being of women and children and without well informed and systematic practice that there is an absence of effective protection for victims of this crime.”

Ms Martin adds:

“Ms West and Ms Galligan understand this issue and we agree with them when they say that the better data and systems that support better analysis of domestic homicide and domestic violence will lead to An Garda Síochana allocating resources where they are most needed which will help the responding Garda on the ground do their jobs.”

In the Second Strategy on Gender Based, Domestic and Sexual Violence launched in January 2016, there was a government commitment to roll out Divisional Protective Services Unit as a way to provide a high standard response to victims of domestic violence, carry out good risk assessment and management, identify victims who are at high risk and perpetrators of abuse. To date, this has only happened in three locations. This needs to be extended as promised as a matter of urgency.

Ms Martin concludes:

“What we have heard today is very troubling. The women we support are often aware that their abuser has started a new relationship and are concerned about the safety of other women. They know the risk. They know the fear but feel helpless. Domestic Violence perpetrators are dangerous and they rarely stop. We need to see the organisations tasked with protecting victims of domestic violence and preventing future victims take this issue as seriously and as urgently as it deserves.”

Ends.

Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.WomensAid.ie

For more information please contact Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or email christina.sherlock@womensaid.ie.

Notes for editors and producers:

  • 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience some form of domestic abuse.
  • The Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline answers 44 calls a day.
  • Women's Aid is the national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff & volunteers, accredited by the Helplines Partnership and with a Telephone Interpretation Service covering 170 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as a Text Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women. Women's Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service in the Dublin District Family Law Court (in partnership with Dublin 12 Domestic Violence Service and Inchicore Outreach Centre.
  • The Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline is a gateway to local domestic violence support services and refuges around the country.

Key statistics from the Women’s Aid Femicide Report 2017 (November 2017):

  • Eight women died violently in the Republic of Ireland in 2017. 6 women were killed in their own homes.
  • Since 1996, 216 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland. 16 children were killed alongside their mothers.
  • 137 women were killed in their own homes (63%).
  • In the resolved cases, 95 women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner (56%).
  • Another 20 women (12%) were killed by a male relative and in 35 cases (20%) women were killed by a man who was known to them. 21 women (12%) were murdered by a stranger.
  • In the 20 cases where a woman has been killed by a male relative, 16 were killed by their sons (80%).
  • In total, 88% of women were killed by a man they knew.
  • Women of any age can be victims of homicide with women under the age of 35 making up 49% of cases in Ireland.
  • There have been 22 cases of murder suicide in this time, where the killer has killed a woman and then himself during the incident or shortly afterwards. In 21 of these cases the killer was a partner or ex of the victim.
  • On average, current or former intimate partners convicted of manslaughter are sentenced to 2.8 years less than other men convicted of manslaughter of women.