The Probation Board for Northern Ireland brought together those working to tackle domestic abuse to share learning and consider some of the opportunities for greater partnership working to tackle this crime and making NI safer.
In the online seminar participants heard from the Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA as well as participants from the probation service, the police service, and the judiciary.
Opening the online seminar, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I commend the Probation Board, who, through this important event, are creating a space to enable conversation and dialogue that will hopefully assist all of those across the justice sector to think about how we continue to collectively tackle domestic abuse.
“The sad reality is that thousands of people across Northern Ireland wake every morning feeling frightened, controlled, isolated, degraded, humiliated or ashamed, often whilst in their own homes. Always on their guard, waiting for the next attack, whether that be physical or psychological. And who is their abuser? A partner, a close family member, the person that sits across from them at the dinner table. Someone they should be able to trust, but tragically can’t. For many home is not a safe place, it is not a haven from harm. Rather, it is the place where there are abused, controlled and made to feel worthless.
“You will be well aware that since taking up post as Justice Minister, tackling domestic abuse has been a key priority for me. This is being progressed through a range of activity at the moment, working with a number of criminal justice partners as well as those in the voluntary and community sector. There is also a range of work that we will collectively be bringing forward over the coming months and years to further address this scourge on society, through both legislative and non-legislative means.”
PBNI’s Board Chair Dale Ashford commented: “Tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for PBNI as set out in our Corporate Plan. Today’s event provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the significant developments that have taken place in the area of domestic abuse over recent months, and consider what has worked well and what else we need to do to. Some of today’s discussion focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted upon those who are vulnerable and justice organisations set out how they are redoubling efforts to help those who require protection. Importantly today’s event also provided a forum for us to think about how we can put a greater emphasis on intervening as early as possible to prevent people becoming victims at all.”
PBNI Chief Executive Cheryl Lamont added: “PBNI’s role in tacking this crime is primarily working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. It can be uncomfortable and difficult to have a conversation about people who commit this heinous offence. When we discuss domestic abuse the public rightly want to know that justice organisations have the right tools and powers in place to protect victims and bring offenders to court. But what happens next? We also need to have a public conversation about how we rehabilitate people, how we tackle the root causes of offending behaviour, how we supervise people who still pose a risk and thereby protect society.
“We know that the interventions and programmes provided by PBNI make a real difference in rehabilitating those who have offended. Amongst the interventions we provide is one for non-adjudicated offenders who have not entered the justice system. This is a really important example of intervening early to protect children and families. Today we also set out the importance of sharing information and working through our effective multi agency arrangements to keep the public safe and prevent people becoming victims”.
• Dr Geraldine O’Hare Director of Rehabilitation in PBNI
• Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, Head of Public Protection at PSNI
• Marie Brown CEO of Foyle Women’s Aid
• Presiding District Judge Fiona Bagnall
• Paul Frew MLA and Chairman of the All Party Group on domestic and sexual violence
• Katie Taylor Head of Community Safety Division in the Department of Justice
Compering the event, Dave Wall, Board Member, said “This is an opportunity for us to reflect on the significant developments in the area of domestic abuse, what has worked well and what else we need to do to and importantly how we can intervene as early as possible to prevent people becoming victims.”
Dr Geraldine O’Hare, Director of Rehabilitation, said at the seminar “A whole justice system approach is needed to tackle domestic abuse. We must intervene early with perpetrators to break the cycle of violence.”
Marie Brown, Foyle Women’s Aid Chief Executive, said “Effective communication is key, victims are the priority and Women’s Aid will always put victims first and remind partners to put victims at the centre of any domestic abuse work.”
Katie Taylor, Head of Community Safety Division, DoJ, said “Joint working between multi-agency and multi-disciplinary teams has to be the key to the success of Domestic Abuse programmes”
Paul Frew MLA, Chairman of the All Party Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence said “Unless we can manage the root cause of the problem, we will be failing victims and we will be failing future victims and that is the message that we must get across.”