People who are convicted of killing their partners receive shorter sentences than others found guilty of homicide.
On average, men who are convicted of the manslaughter of their partners receive three years less than other perpetrators of the same crime.
Women’s Aid launched a report yesterday, called ‘Femicide Watch 2017’, analysing the 149 cases that have gone before courts in relation to the killing of a woman by her current or former partner.
Since 1996, 216 women have died violently in Ireland, 137 of them killed in their own homes.
“Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, whereas if it’s a sentence of manslaughter there is much more discretion available to the judge,” said Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid. “The average for intimate partners, in terms of a sentence, it was 7.8 years, whereas for other men it was 10.6 years.
“So there is almost a three-year additional sentence served by other men than by intimate partners. So the State’s sanctioning of women being killed by intimate partners, it is less severe.”
Frank Mullane, whose sister Julia Pemberton and nephew William were murdered by their husband and father Alan in 2003, spoke at yesterday’s event.
After his sister’s murder, Mr Mullane set up Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA).
He believes that men who kill their partners receive shorter sentences because the judiciary fall for narratives of love rather than narratives of obsession.
“Before we had domestic homicide reviews in England, the narrative, the story of the deceased person, was written by who?” he said. “It was written by the perpetrator in court under cross-examination. ‘This is what happened, my lord. She nagged me. I loved her to bits by the way and she just nagged me too much. I loved her too much.’
“That’s the story on the internet. The media take their lead from that story. And then you see headlines: ‘He loved her to bits.’
“If you exhumed her body from the dead and somehow gave her her day in court, she might say: ‘What part of love is murder? We were not a couple. I told him to go three years ago. He’s fixated. He’s obsessed. He doesn’t love me.’
“And today Women’s Aid’s report says that sentences for intimate partner homicide are less than sentences for equivalent manslaughter or murders, because, and I speculate, the judiciary are hearing these narratives of love and believing them as narratives of love, and not actually as narratives of obsession and fixation.”
Mr Mullane saidthat, from his work, “coercive control” is the most common form of domestic abuse, as well as the biggest indicator of domestic homicide.
“Coercive control is establishing in the mind of the victim the price of her resistance,” said Mr Mullane.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty attended yesterday’s launch and said of some of the sentences handed down in Ireland, for the murder of women and for sexual violence against them and children, it “leaves you with bewilderment”.
“I think there is genuinely a review required of the length of terms that are permissible within these crimes and it shouldn’t be a mitigating factor that somebody lived in a loving environment, it actually should be an aggravating factor,” Ms Doherty said.
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