In a review of sample cases of domestic homicides by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Women’s Aid, it was also found that separation was a risk factor for escalating violence and risk of fatality, with just under one-third of the 21 homicides studied being committed after separation.
The 21 cases analysed took place between March 2001 and April 2009, and the statistics follow figures published last year by Women’s Aid which showed that almost two-thirds of women who are murdered are killed in their own homes.
In the collaboration, it was shown that a number of significant “risk” factors could be identified in half the cases, such as previous physical violence, drug or alcohol misuse, controlling behaviour, health issues and depression.
In half the cases analysed, 10 or more of the 13 risk factors were identified.
Two-thirds of perpetrators had been violent towards their partners before the murder, and in addition to cases in which separation had already occurred, there was another six cases where the women either left before or had threatened to leave.
The report also indicates that there is a lack of data and difficulties in sharing existing data among some of the agencies involved in domestic violence cases and that domestic violence homicide reviews would identify risk factors and improve coordination of services to try and limit the number of future cases.
The findings are in a report, based on a conference on Women in the Criminal Justice System, held last October by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development.
In another section it was found that mental illness was present in one-third of women who died in prison.
It also claims that many women suffering from mental illness in the prison system have multiple needs, from poor education to abuse problems, and “there are inadequate services provided for women in the Central Mental Hospital”.
“Seclusion is used inappropriately and they are accommodated in one ward which is not indicative of their progress and there is no separate rehabilitation ward,” according to Áine Hynes, chairperson of the Irish Mental Health Lawyers Association.
The report was launched yesterday by the Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness.