Domestic violence figures are ‘alarming’ according to gardai
A BROADER discussion on domestic violence is required to address an alarming increase of the problem over the last two years, according to representatives on the Joint Policing Committee (JPC).
Most policing districts in South Dublin County have seen an increase of domestic violence cases, a trend attributed to the damaging factors imposed on people by lockdowns and restrictions, and also a trend replicated nationwide during Covid.
Tallaght/Rathfarnham garda district report a 38 per cent increase in domestic violence incidents (where no offence was recorded) from December 1, 2021 to January 14, 2022, compared to the same time period 12 months previous.
Gardai statistics reveal 174 domestic violence (no offences disclosed cases) in Tallaght/Rathfarnham, and 33 breaches of domestic violence orders.
Chief Superintendent Peter Duff, Crumlin Garda Station, said these calls are where someone calls gardai and there is no order in effect, no barring order, and “no allegation of a specific criminal offence”.
“That is not to say that on investigation, that one won’t be discovered later on,” said Chief Supt Duff.
“If no specific assault has taken place, gardai can’t immediately act. If there is an order in effect or the order is breached, gardai can take immediate action and arrest the respondent in those cases.”
Chief Supt Finbarr Murphy, Blanchardstown Garda Station said the increase was anticipated by the organisation, but he assured attendees that new operational services and a “particular focus” on getting people to come forward, are having a desired effect.
“We would know from dealing with Women’s Aid, that there is a lot more happening than was being reported, and we put a significant effort on that. We have our domestic abuse coordinators put in which are first line guards,” said Chief Supt Murphy.
“The guys going to the first call, they have been trained to deal with [this], and then we give a call back to everybody within seven days, ask them if they didn’t want to make a complaint the other night but maybe you would make a complaint now that it has settled.”
While acknowledging how “alarming” the figures are “from a society point of view”, he said it was expected.
“We want to assure anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse that they are getting a very good call back service, and good supports, we are bringing them through the courts and are getting very good feedback on how we are approaching that at the moment,” he said.
Cllr Emma Murphy (FF), outgoing Chair of the JPC, said a broader discussion on domestic violence is scheduled to be given greater precedence at one of the next JPC meetings.
TD Sean Crowe (SF) said they need to know what extra supports they can help deliver for victims.
“The big issue we get as elected reps is that people who are in that situation, where do they go. There is places like Saoirse refuge, but this has to expand right throughout the county, and maybe familiarise ourselves with the challenges that the gardai also face in relation to this,” said Deputy Crowe.
Chief Supt Murphy said gardai would welcome the opportunity to make a presentation at one of the next JPC’s to explain how they respond to domestic violence cases.
“Probably one of the important pieces, is how we hold a set of keys to give to the victims, and these keys unlock the professional services that they can get,” said Chief Supt Murphy.
At the meeting, Cllr Carly Bailey (SocDems) expressed concerns about the revelation last year, that thousands of domestic violence 999 calls were cancelled by gardai.
“That is something widely known amongst women seeking help, would it be quicker for someone to ring their local station,” she asked.
Cllr Bailey suggested a safety audit on 999 calls to be included in the broader discussion at a future local JPC meeting.
Responding, Chief Supt Murphy said people should call 999.
“Under the old system, calls were rated in a particular way and sometimes the call could be closed off. If somebody got to a house and they didn’t get a response, they could say there is nothing happening here and cancel it,” he said.
“That has changed completely. If somebody now rings it will be pursued right throughout the day and the following day until somebody gets there. So, 999 is the way to go in relation to any call.”