Justice bodies must focus on implementing outstanding domestic violence and abuse recommendations

CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin has urged criminal justice organisations to focus on taking forward all outstanding inspection recommendations following the publication of the No Excuse domestic violence and abuse inspection Follow-up Review.
Ms Durkin expressed her disappointment that nearly two years after the original inspection was published, Inspectors found one recommendation was achieved, four partially achieved and two not achieved when they returned to assess progress.
“Domestic violence and abuse is a long standing problem throughout our community that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with many new and repeat victims finding their homes are not a safe place, but a place of fear and anxiety during the lockdown restrictions,” said the Chief Inspector.
“I am disappointed with the pace of progress and that key recommendations to implement an advocacy service to support victims of domestic violence and abuse and establish regional domestic violence and abuse courts remained outstanding,” said Ms Durkin.
Ms Durkin also expressed concerns about the low numbers of cases being referred to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference where information is shared between the police, health and social services, probation and child protection representatives to protect adults and children.
However, the Chief Inspector acknowledged that progress was made in other areas with Inspectors finding evidence that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland had improved how they shared information and worked together as a prosecution team.
She recognised the collaborative work undertaken by the PSNI-led Domestic Abuse Independent Advisory Group, to respond swiftly to the urgent need for rising numbers of victims of domestic violence and abuse to access services and support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She also welcomed the passage of the Bill through the Northern Ireland Assembly and creation of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021 that received Royal Assent on 1 March 2021.
“The recommendations made in the 2019 No Excuse report aimed to improve the criminal justice system’s response and deliver better outcomes for victims of domestic violence and abuse.  This work is more urgent than it ever was and the recommendations that still need to be implemented need action now – no excuse,” said Ms Durkin.