PSNI Report found an increase of 1,990 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland since the previous year

33,186 incidents were reported in between 1st April 2021 and 31st April March 2022. The report released by the PSNI in May stated this was the highest the figures had been since 2004/2005.

Nine of the eleven policing districts showed an increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents, with all eleven districts having higher levels of domestic abuse crimes in the year 21/22.

The report found that incidents of domestic abuse tend to increase towards the summer months, during the summer and the month of December. Since the start of this data series in 2004/2005, the 2,981 incidents reported in July 2021 has been the highest monthly figure. In almost all eleven policing districts there are significant rises in the months of July and December.

In relation to these figures, there were nine homicides with a domestic abuse motivation in both the years 2020/21 and 2021/22. Four of the victims in 21/22 were female which is a decrease in the previous year figures in which there were eight female victims.

The statistics of the report show that the number of domestic incidents recorded is much higher than that of domestic abuse crimes. In the year 2021/22 there were 1, 932 crimes recorded and 2,790 incidents which is almost double the figure compared to crimes.

These shocking figures highlight that domestic abuse in Northern Ireland is a real concern. There were also incidents in which there were more than one crime recorded, with the statistic for 2021/22 sitting at 17,246.

Domestic abuse incidents are separated into different categories, one of which is violence causing injury.  These statistics include homicides, deaths and serious injury by unlawful driving which are related to domestic abuse. Figures show there were 4, 911 incidents of this nature which is an increase of 428 in comparison to the previous year.

Belfast City policing district accounts for more than a quarter of all domestic abuse incidents and crimes recored in Northern Ireland. In the year 2021/22 alone there were 2,074 domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police. This figure is over double the figures recorded for the other ten policing districts.

Lisburn & Castlereagh City and Causeway Coast & Glens saw a slight decrease in the number of domestic abuse incidents but still reported a slight increase in the number of domestic abuse crimes.

Armagh City and Banbridge & Craigavon district reported the most incidents in July 2021, with a staggering figure of 996 cases. Fermanagh & Omagh reported the least in April 2021 with 413 cases.

The figures associated with domestic abuse continue to rise and there are now a number of organisations in Northern Ireland to offer support and help to domestic abuse victims. One of these is the Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland which provides services for both women and children.

The voluntary organisation began in 1975 and their aim is to “challenge attitudes, structures and systems which perpetuate domestic abuse.” Their website provides information on all of their services and also educates people on the scope of domestic abuse.

The PSNI are responding to a domestic abuse incident on average,  almost every seventeen minutes of each day.

In the Women’s Aid annual report 2020/21 the CEO Sarah Mason said, Women’s Aid worked closely with the PSNI during the pandemic and police statistics clearly show that domestic abuse was a major issue during this time.

In March 2021 after many years of campaigning for coercive control legislation in Northern Ireland, the Domestic Abuse & Civil Proceedings Act was passed and received Royal Assent. This Act, will criminalise a course of abusive behaviour, both physical and non-physical abuse will be fully operational from February 2022.

Another organisation which provides support for not only victims but also witnesses of domestic abuse is Victims Support NI. Their website includes helplines to other methods of support such as  Assist NI and the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline. Assist NI was launched towards the end of 2021 and is funded by the Department of Justice. It support victims in the whole of Northern Ireland.

They define domestic abuse as any violent behaviour within a family or relationship, including emotional abuse. Domestic abuse includes physical, sexual, financial, emotional and online abuse. Their website also includes victim testimonies on how the organisation has helped them in reporting their abuse and continued to support them throughout court hearings and afterwards.

It is evident from the PSNI figures that domestic abuse is an increasing concern in Northern Ireland even with more organisations available now to offer support. The implementation of new legislation will hopefully have a positive impact ion protecting victims of domestic abuse.

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Postgraduate MA Journalism Student