More than 100 people were charged with domestic violence offences over a 15-day period during the Covid-19 lockdown under a dedicated Garda operation.
The prosecutions are part of a second phase of Operation Faoiseamh, which has seen over 8,200 contacts or attempted contacts by gardaí of victims of domestic abuse since the start of April.
Safe Ireland, a national charity working with 39 domestic violence services, praised the operation, adding that refuges havr experienced a “notable increase” in calls, particularly over the last month, with some services seeing a rise of up to 60%.
Women’s Aid said the figures highlight the important role gardaí play in protecting people abused in the home.
The charity said they have taken more than 4,000 calls since late March – up 39% on the same period last year – with a 74% rise in traffic to their website, where people can use an online instant chat service.
Figures released by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) show:
- 8,229 contacts or attempts to contact victims of domestic abuse made as part of Phase II of Operation Faoiseamh, in relation to incidents reported between January 1 and May 25;
- 107 prosecutions under the Phase II of the operation during May 13 and May 27.
Gardaí said these figures come on the back of a 25% rise since 2019 in calls to them for assistance on domestic violence incidents.
In a statement, Garda HQ said it is working hard with State and voluntary agencies in relation to accessing support services and the Courts Service.
It said 245 members and civilians are attached to the GNPSB and the 16 Divisional Protective Service Units (DPSU).
Operation Faoiseamh was launched on April 1 with the aim to “prevent loss of life and to ensure that victims of domestic abuse were supported and protected” during the Covid measures.
Phase II of the operation commenced on May 13 and concentrated on the execution of arrests and the commencement of prosecutions for offences relating to breaches of court orders obtained under the Domestic Violence Act, 2018.
Detective Chief Superintendent Declan Daly of GNPSB said: “The 107 prosecutions initiated in the last few weeks as part of Operation Faoiseamh should serve as a reminder to all that breaching domestic abuse Court Orders is an offence and can result in Court Proceedings.
Victims and those who are aware of abusive domestic circumstances should continue to report to An Garda Síochána.
Safe Ireland CEO Mary McDermott welcomed the force’s commitment that it will continue to allocate resources to this area.
“It is now that our services are going to be facing their real crisis,” she said. “Women with children in particular are coming forward and reaching out after months of entrapment with their abusers. Our services are going to be dealing with layers of complex trauma, emotional and practical needs. It is crucial that the prioritisation of this issue in Garda support and in resourcing continues.”
She added: “Our biggest concern is that once the pandemic focus lifts, domestic violence will go back to being a hidden issue that can be pawned off with piecemeal and inadequate responses.”
Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson said the Covid-19 restrictions provide the “ideal environment for abusers to exert their power and dominance in homes”.
She said the 4,000 calls they have received since late March disclosed high levels of emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse of women by their partners. She said the instant online chat service on the Women's Aid website is a “crucial” safety net for women unable to make calls.
Ms Benson said it is an essential part of post Covid-19 planning that tackling domestic abuse continues to be a priority.
Meanwhile, Rape Crisis Network Ireland said that, in recent weeks, for many survivors, trauma is resurfacing and that they may also feel reluctant to prioritise themselves while so much else is going on.
“RCNI wish to send out the clear message to survivors that their wellbeing and mental health is our priority; Rape crisis centres around the country are providing a safe online space to support survivors,” said executive director Clíona Saidléar.