10% surge in domestic violence cases as nine counties are still without refuges

10% surge in domestic violence cases as nine counties are still without refuges

The latest domestic violence figures come against the background of an apparent collapse in detections for sex offences, particularly in Munster. Stock picture

Gardaí responded to almost 50,000 domestic violence incidents in 2021, a 10% hike compared to a year earlier.

The surge in cases will increase pressure on the Government to ensure there are proper facilities for domestic violence victims. There are nine counties that still do not have refuges for women and children.

The latest statistics, released under Operation Faoiseamh, which was set up in April 2020 to tackle domestic abuse, show gardaí:

  • responded to more than 48,400 domestic abuse incidents in 2021, a 10% increase on 2020.
  • brought 4,250 charges for breaches of domestic violence act orders in 2021, up 6%.
  • brought 8,600 criminal charges for crimes involving an element of domestic abuse in 2021, up 13%.

Detective Chief Superintendent Colm Noonan of the Garda National Protective Services Unit said the rise in prosecutions in 2021 shows gardaí have the capacity and resolve to fully investigate domestic abuse offences and to prosecute offenders.

He said that divisional protective services units (DPSUs) are in every Garda division, supported by divisional victim service offices and frontline gardaí.

Apparent collapse in detections for sex offences

The release of the latest domestic violence figures comes as concerns are being expressed at an apparent collapse in detections for sex offences in some areas of the country, particularly in Munster.

In 2020, the national detection rate for sex offences was 10.3% — down just one percentage point from 2018. However, at a divisional level, there were large drops in the rates in a number of counties.

For example, in the Cork West division, the rate fell from 45.5% in 2019 to just 8.9% in 2020. The detection rate for the same division in 2018 was 23.8%.

In Kerry, detection rates fell from 30.2% in 2018 to 13.9% in 2020, while in Limerick they were down from 21.5% to 10.6%. In Tipperary, the rates fell from 22.9% in 2020 to just 7.7% in 2018.

However, in some areas, figures were almost on a par. For example, in the Waterford division, detections were made in 21.8% of cases in 2018, while there was a 21.6% rate in 2020. In the Dublin metropolitan region (eastern), the rates were just three percentage points less — down from 13.5% in 2018 to 10.5%.

Detection rates relate to cases where there has been a charge or other proceedings brought in relation to the crime.

Rape Crisis Network of Ireland executive director Clíona Sadlier said an upcoming review of the DPSUs must look at delays in detections for sexual offences.

She said Covid-19 may have had an impact on detections of sex offences that caused a significant drop in 2020 detection rates. However, she added: 

There is something about the variation that we need to understand because it may be telling us something about how priority and capacity affect detection rates.

She said the unevenness of the figures across the country shows there is an issue that has to be examined, adding: “If there is something to be learned there, perhaps we can overcome delays in cases. Tackling delays is multi-layered, but this is a very important part of the bottleneck.”

In relation to the fall-off in detection rates, a garda spokesman said: “Particular incidents, such as sexual offences, can involve very complex and lengthy investigations. This means it can take many months from the time an incident is first reported for the crime to be fully investigated and for a charge to be directed.

“Without commenting on the reasons why, there can be delays in the reporting of these incidents, including very lengthy, historical delays, and there can be genuine concern by injured parties in initially reporting and subsequently supporting and engaging with the criminal investigation.”

  • National Rape Crisis Helpline 1800 778888; Women’s Aid Helpline 1800 341900.
  • Victims of domestic abuse are urged to call 999 or 112.

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