One death as a result of domestic abuse is one too many, Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.
Speaking today as she introduced Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) in Northern Ireland, Naomi Long said: “Tragically, on average six people are killed every year in Northern Ireland as a result of domestic abuse, and incidents of abuse remain on the rise, not helped by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Losing a loved one as a result of domestic violence is hugely traumatic for the victim’s family and friends as so many questions can often be left unanswered.
“One death as a result of domestic abuse is simply one too many and the overarching purpose of a review will be to help prevent future domestic homicides. The focus will not be on apportioning blame but on learning and the sharing of good practice to improve how incidents, and indeed victims, of domestic abuse, are responded to.”
A DHR may be considered within the following circumstances:
• The deceased person is aged 16 or over;
• The death has or appears to have resulted from violence, abuse or neglect, which has been caused by:
A person to whom the victim was related, or
A person with whom they had been in an intimate personal relationship with, or
A member of the same household.
Three independent Chairs have been appointed, with a singular chair leading each review to produce a report, with the support of a panel. The panel will comprise various agencies, as well as voluntary and community sector organisations.
The three Chairs who have been appointed are Nina Noddings, Jan Melia and Anne Marks.
Naomi Long added: “Domestic Homicide Reviews will illuminate the past to make the future safer for those who may be at risk or who are being subjected to domestic abuse. I congratulate Jan, Nina and Anne on their appointments and wish them well in this important area of work.”
Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Domestic Abuse is a priority for The Police Service of Northern Ireland as we attend a call in relation to this horrific crime every 17 minutes. We therefore welcome the introduction of Domestic Homicide Reviews in Northern Ireland.
“Whilst our fundamental ethos is to stop Domestic Abuse in all its forms, tragically we know lives are lost to this horrendous crime every year.
“The primary focus of the reviews will be on learning lessons and highlighting best practice in order to improve services and responses to victims of domestic abuse, their children and family, and to identify any ways that may help prevent future homicides.
“We will work closely and collaboratively with our colleagues in the Department of Justice through the Domestic Homicide Review framework as a means to continually learn and do all we can to minimise the number of people who suffer Domestic Abuse in the future.”
A decision on whether or not to commission a DHR will be taken as soon as practicable and within six weeks of a death. The length of time that it takes to commission and complete a DHR will depend on the specifics of the case and whether the review needs to be paused due to ongoing criminal proceedings.
Relevant information relating to the deceased person, and their close family and friends will be requested from a variety of sources as part of the review process. This will include (and is not limited to) statutory bodies, friends and family, community and voluntary sector organisations.
The independent Chair’s report will be considered by a Senior Oversight Forum chaired by the Department of Justice and comprising representatives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, and the Health and Social Care Board. Membership will also include one individual who will represent all of the Health and Social Care Trusts. This multi-agency approach will ensure that any learning or good practice highlighted in the report can be shared and implemented to improve future outcomes.
Reviews will not be commenced retrospectively.
Further information can be found on the NI Direct website.
Notes to editors:
1. Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victim’s Act 2004 was commenced in Northern Ireland on 10 December 2020. The legislation provides specific functions for the Department of Justice and a duty on other statutory organisations to participate in the DHR process.
2. The independent chairs have been appointed (following an open public selection process) for an initial period of three years and have wide experience working with victims of domestic abuse and more generally with regard to safeguarding and multi-agency working.
3. PEN PICTURES OF THE CHAIRS
Originally from Manchester, Jan moved to Northern Ireland in 1992. Since making NI home, she has worked in the voluntary and community sector in Donegal, Leitrim, Dublin, Derry and Belfast. Working with a range of organisations including Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, Forthspring Inter Community Group and the Community Arts Partnership. She has also worked as a consultant for a range of organisations including the U.N Migration Agency. Jan undertook a Master’s in Human Rights Law (LLM) at Ulster University and also studied counselling at QUB. She recently graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a PhD in politics focusing on transitional justice and gender based violence in post conflict societies. She is a keen walker and has written and performed poetry and music for many years. She has three grown up children.
Political Activity: None
Anne Marks is a former Detective Superintendent in the Police Service of Northern Ireland who has overseen the investigation of many complex cases of abuse committed on children and adults and has led on the development on new working practices. Her extensive experience in this field was recognised in 2015 when Ulster University bestowed an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Science) ‘for services to vulnerable people’; in 2017 when awarded the Queens Police Medal (QPM) in the Queens New Year’s Honours List ‘for distinguished services to policing’; and in 2020 by the PSNI ‘in recognition of your dedication and commitment to protecting children and adults from harm’. She is a qualified trainer and holds a Master of Science (MSc) (Commended) in Child Forensic Studies: Psychology and Law. Anne was recently appointed an Associate Consultant with the HSC Leadership Centre.
Political Activity: None
Mrs Nina Noddings is a former police Superintendent and senior manager with experience working for Government, Charity and Local Authority organisations. She has policing experience on a UK and international scale, having lived and worked in the Caribbean for part of her policing career. Nina has extensive experience of frontline policing at senior officer level, as well as fulfilling the role of Deputy Head of the Learning and Development Department for British Transport Police in London.
Having spent sixteen years as a warranted police officer, Nina took up the senior role of Assistant Postmaster General with responsibility for Regulatory and International Relations for the Cayman Islands Postal Service. Since returning to the United Kingdom in 2016, Nina has fulfilled senior manager roles with the Alzheimer’s Society, Belfast City Council, and Hillsborough Castle.
Nina has a BSc (Hons) in Criminal Justice Studies and an MSc in Police Science and Management.
Political activity: None.
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