Call for Garda domestic violence training

At least 70% of gardaí should receive specific domestic violence training, a national charity working in the area has said.

Call for Garda domestic violence training

At least 70% of gardaí should receive specific domestic violence training, a national charity working in the area has said.

Safe Ireland is calling for an additional €10m to be provided to the Garda budget next year for domestic violence training and services.

The advocacy body, which also provides refuges for women and children, said a “critical mass” of training was required in order to bring about “real culture change” among gardaí.

Safe Ireland was responding to findings in a Policing Authority report which, among other things, found the rate of garda callbacks to complainants of domestic violence was little more than half of what they should be under their own targets.

The authority said only 22% of victims had personal callbacks from gardaí within seven days, compared to a Garda target rate of 40%.

However, the report also found that reporting of domestic and sexual violence has increased and that this included the first 10 cases of the new offence of “coercive control”, which was introduced into law last January.

The authority also welcomed the successful rollout of Protective Service Units to all divisions by the end of the year — but said existing units were being hit by staffing problems.

Safe Ireland CEO Sharon O’Halloran welcomed developments and reforms that had taken place within An Garda Síochána in recent years in relation to understanding and supporting survivors of domestic violence.

“However, we have concerns that women who are reporting incidents of domestic violence — including incidents of coercive control — are not getting a timely response,” Ms O’Halloran said.

She said research indicates that many women in Ireland are not reporting the most serious incidences of domestic violence to Gardaí.

“When they do, they need to be responded to,” she said. “Real culture change requires a critical mass of training and a transformational change in understanding and mindset.”

She said this required “transformational investment” in core training and ongoing professional development for gardaí.

“We cannot tinker around the edges,” Ms O’Halloran said.

In order to keep women and children safe, we need to undertake training of at least 70% of the AGS workforce to really achieve the institutional reforms necessary to tackle coercive control, as recognised in the Domestic Violence Act 2018.

She added: “This must be supported and resourced by the State.

“In our pre-budget submission, we are recommending that the policing budget is increased by €10m in 2020 to begin to provide for the responses that survivors of domestic violence really need when they come forward.”

An Garda Síochána said it had a policy of not commenting on remarks by third parties, but speaking generally, it said:

“We are seeing increasing reporting of domestic violence, which is to be welcomed and encouraged.

"An Garda Síochána at national level through the Protective Services Bureau, and through the rollout of local Protective Service Units, is committed to ensuring each and every complaint of domestic violence is investigated.”

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