Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Domestic call 'every 23 minutes'

Irene Wilson, who suffered from domestic violence, tells her story

Police in Northern Ireland respond to domestic abuse every 23 minutes, a Policing Board report has said.

The report said that one in four women in NI will suffer violence at the hands of their partner.

The report, from the Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee, made 14 recommendations for the police to consider to improve their service.

The committee's chair, Basil McCrea, said domestic abuse was "a serious and endemic problem".

"The report has highlighted that under-reporting is a concern and domestic abuse is the least likely of all violent crimes to be reported to the police," he said.

"By the very nature of domestic abuse, the reasons for under-reporting are varied and complex however one important factor in this is the isolation of the victim and the fear of further isolation if a report is made."

Male victims

While domestic violence incidences have dropped slightly on last year (by 3.3%) there are still more than 23,000 reports of violence against partners or family members annually.

Of 25 murders recorded last year in Northern Ireland, 11 had a domestic motivation.

Mr McCrea said there was also a worrying potential increase in domestic abuse perpetrated upon male victims and, in particular, a high percentage of victims from the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) communities.

I think we have to acknowledge there have been huge strides made by the PSNI in tackling this issue over recent years
Martina Anderson
Sinn Fein

The report said that a change to police policy which meant prosecutions would not be dependent on the victims' co-operation was welcome, because it was relatively common in a domestic abuse case for the victim to withdraw co-operation.

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Martina Anderson said while the PSNI had made great progress on the problem there were still areas to improve performance.

"I think we have to acknowledge there have been huge strides made by the PSNI in tackling this issue over recent years but it is clear that much work still needs to be done," she said.

"We have identified a number of gaps around training and resources for instance but I am confident that the 14 recommendations emerging from this inquiry will go a long way to closing those gaps and improving, still further, PSNI responses to domestic violence."



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