20% of domestic violence barring orders flouted

PEOPLE who beat their partners are flouting barring orders in 20% of cases.

This is according to latest crime figures which show that gardaí investigated 1,230 breaches of barring orders, protection orders and safety orders in 2007.

This represented a 3% increase on the previous 12 months and in the first quarter of this year there have already been 325 incidents.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also revealed during a three-year period (between 2004 and 2006) one fifth of all court orders were ignored.

In this period, the courts issued 17,132 orders and the gardaí investigated 3,705 cases where the orders were breached.

Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin, said the figures expose a lot of questions about how effective barring orders are and how they are being policed.

She said in 2006 one quarter of all breaches led to a conviction, which she said was high, but the lack of further analysis meant the full extent of the problem remained hidden.

“There is so little accurate information available in this whole area. One of the issues with the barring orders is we do not know from the court figures how long judges are issuing barring orders for. They can be anything from one year to five years and this is important to know.

“And we would also want to know from each barring order breach how many Garda call-outs are happening. We need more information to be released and a better explanation of what this information means,” said Ms Martin.

Women’s Aid will launch its annual report today in which it will outline the trends in calls to its helpline during 2007. However, Ms Martin said the gardaí, the CSO and the Courts Service need to be more open with their own domestic violence related figures.

She pointed to a recent presentation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency in Dublin.

This revealed that there were 23,000 domestic violence-related incidents north of the border in 2006.

There were slightly more than 1,400 crimes where court orders were breached.

Ms Martin said the policy adopted by the PSNI gives a much fuller picture of patterns in domestic violence crime.

For the past three years, statistics on the number of Garda call-outs arising from domestic violence have not been published.

When the gardaí last produced complete figures, in 2003, there were 8,452 incidents of domestic violence in which 1,418 people were charged, 1,362 were injured and 650 convicted.

Despite the policy shift away from publishing figures, gardaí still record each time somebody ignores a court order to stop assaulting their partner.

This figure was omitted from last year’s Garda Annual Report, but it was released to the Irish Examiner from the CSO’s new crime statistics database. It showed that last year, 1,230 orders made under the domestic violence act were breached. This was the highest level since 2004 and included all types of protection order.

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