Foyle Women’s Aid recently hosted an information day for for the PSNI, Victims Support, Victim and Witness Care Unit, and the Domestic and Sexual Helpline to review and agree protocols for working together in the interests of victims.
Over 27,000 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by the police in Northern Ireland last year but only a third of these resulted in any kind of sanction for the perpetrator. In a single weekend in Derry police received over 40 reports of domestic abuse – and two serious sexual assaults – but very few of these will ever get to court.
For agencies working with victims – particularly those who respond initially to the victim and witness the distress and injury caused – this can be frustrating and puzzling.
Women’s Aid believe that all agencies have to work together in a focused and holistic way to improve provide protection, prevention, safety and support to men, women and children who have been abused.
At the information day, agencies agreed that early intervention of support services can make the difference between a victim receiving the protection required and the confidence necessary to progress a complaint. Agencies examined whether victims are deterred from reporting because of the way they are treated at any stage of the criminal justice process and if there are any supports or strategies that be put in place to prevent victims cases dropping out of the system. They also looked at the barriers – both practical and emotional – for women going to court and how these could be addressed and met with victims to hear their experiences of police and the courts.