Garda supervisors concerned about ability to enforce laws combatting domestic abuse

Garda supervisors concerned about ability to enforce laws combatting domestic abuse

Frontline garda supervisors have expressed “deep concern” about their ability to enforce new laws aimed at combating domestic abuse.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan announced last week that the Domestic Violence Act 2018 had been enacted, bringing into force new criminal offences related to 'coercive control' and forced marriage.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, representing 2,000 frontline supervisors, condemned the lack of training.

“The National Executive of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have expressed deep concern around the enforcement of new laws contained in the Domestic Violence Act 2018,” said the association in a statement.

The statement said that while the act came into force on January 2 “none” of its members had received formal training.

“We are calling on the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to prioritise training in this area as a matter of urgency," it said. "Appropriate training delivered in advance of legislation being implemented will ensure the public receives the best possible policing service.”

The Garda Representative Association, with 11,200 frontline members, said the new legislation was “vital” and was to be welcomed.

“However, in order to achieve its potential, there requires to be a corresponding 'continuous professional development' programme for our frontline members who will be attending these incidents on a daily basis,” the GRA said in a statement.

We have been given to understand that a core training programme for 2019 is currently being developed and this legislation shall be included within this programme.

Coercive control is described as psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person's daily activities.

A Garda HQ statement said that before legislation is signed into law information on key elements was made available to all members via the Garda web portal.

“This contained detailed information on elements of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 and offered assistance to members who may have had specific queries,” it said.

It said training for members at local divisional level is due to begin later this month. It said added training can't take place on new legislation until it is formally commenced in case a decision is made to only commence certain sections at a particular time.

Director of Women's Aid Margaret Martin welcomed the AGSI comments and said training was really important to understand that coercive control entailed “a pattern of behaviour with an intent behind it”.

She said coercive control was a “challenge” for frontline gardaí to identify.

“You have to identify the patterns and you really need good training to identify what you need to build a case,” she said.


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