Frontline gardaí are being encouraged to arrest suspected domestic violence abusers under a new Garda intervention policy, writes Cormac O'Keeffe.
The Garda Domestic Abuse Intervention Policy 2017 follows significant criticism, particularly by the Garda Inspectorate, which highlighted “low volumes of arrests”, with 287 arrests out of 11,000 incidents examined.
Women’s Aid welcomed the policy, particularly the focus on call-takers, the safety of victims, the risks to children and the emphasis on supervision of gardaí.
However, they highlight a number of concerns, including the lack of detail on the right under the EU Victims Directive for an individual victim assessment, lack of clarity as to which Garda unit will perform an overall monitoring function, and “no information” on domestic abuse statistics.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it understood a training programme had been developed, but that it had “not yet been implemented” and its members had “not been formally trained to date”.
The Garda document accepts that investigating domestic abuse is “particularly demanding”, but tells members it is “vital” they show “sensitivity” in dealing with complainants.
The document says the reality of domestic abuse is that it is “repeated, systematic and dangerous” and that the safety of complainants is “paramount”.
It sets out new structures and processes for responding to and investigating such incidents and details the required responses from both frontline gardaí and supervisors.
The document outlines the range of laws — under more than nine pieces of legislation in addition to breaches of various court orders — that can, and should, if appropriate, be used to make arrests.
“This is a policy which encourages the making of an arrest, where appropriate, and addresses the actions expected to be taken by personnel of An Garda Síochána,” says the document.
The Garda Inspectorate’s ‘Crime Investigation 2014’ report found a lack of recording and supervision, inconsistent follow-up, and differing attitudes of gardaí, with some “displaying negative attitudes” to such cases.
The Garda policy says “special care and attention” is needed and added: “Inappropriate action by personnel within An Garda Síochána can often confirm the aggressor’s perception of invulnerability which, in turn, can lead to further abuse.”
It says the injured party’s attitude should not be “the determining factor” as to arresting a suspect. It says the investigating garda must call back in person to the complainant within a week.
Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin welcomed the policy, saying research indicated only 29% of women who experienced severe abuse reported to gardaí.
“In particular we welcome the inclusion of improved and more detailed procedures regarding the role of call takers, who have to do a preliminary assessment and provide specified information,” she said.
She welcomed the “increased focus on the safety of the victim” and that gardaí will only depart the scene when they are satisfied with the safety of the people.
Ms Martin also said: “Very welcome is the stronger emphasis on continuing contact and follow-up with victims as per the EU Victims Directive.”
But she said there were possible gaps, including the lack of detail on individual victim assessments as per the Victims Directive.
She said the call by the Inspectorate for the national sexual and domestic violence unit to monitor the policy is not in the document.
This story first appeared in theIrish Examiner