Need for domestic violence initiatives to focus on rehab

Ireland’s under-resourced programmes for those involved in domestic violence are failing victims and perpetrators by not focusing on the need for rehabilitation, according to one of the country’s most senior law lecturers.

In a new article written for the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Louise Crowley, vice dean and senior lecturer at the School of Law in University College Cork, said the 13 intervention programmes for male perpetrators received €390,000 in combined government funding in 2013 and “their capacity is limited and their geographical spread is restrictive”.

Dr Crowley said “the restricted capacity results in a severely inadequate response”, with areas such as Connaught and the border areas having fewer services than Leinster and Munster.

She said Ireland recognised the need to improve perpetrator intervention measures, including in its second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, yet the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 did not mandate the courts to order the referral of an offender to a perpetrator programme.

Dr Crowley also spoke with some participants in an intervention programme operated by MOVE Cork, and found that few had ever been in prison and one man who had been incarcerated regretted that no perpetrator programme had been made available to him either while he was in jail or on release.

Dr Crowley said that this was one of the shortfalls in our system, claiming that Ireland should instead pursue policies and interventions that have proven successful in other countries.

One such example is Scotland, where a domestic abuse task force was established and played a role in a number of arrests relating to the criminal behaviour of domestic violence perpetrators. It works in tandem with a men’s programme aimed at targeting domestic violence offending that also provided an integrated service to partners, ex-partners and children in order to improve safety.

“Ireland’s predominant emphasis upon retribution rather than rehabilitation in the domestic violence context remains at odds with international developments,” she said.

“If Ireland is to give meaningful effect to its international obligations and actively protect vulnerable parties from ongoing abuse; it is time to recognize the immediate need to invest in, and develop, comprehensive laws and structures for domestic violence perpetrator programmes.”

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