Members of the Police Authority ‘continue to listen’ to deficiencies in the Garda response to domestic violence and the reluctance or unwillingness of some Gardaí to become involved in cases unless the victim has already obtained a banning order or security against the perpetrator, a public meeting has been said.
This was despite a major shift in the force response to domestic violence during the pandemic when a specialized national operation was launched to monitor and reach people, mostly women, at risk in their own homes during closing periods.
Meanwhile, on the subject of crime rates in general, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told a Police Authority public meeting on Thursday in Portlaoise, Co Laois, that the Republic was safe compared to many other jurisdictions. However, there was a “national fascination” with reading about crime in the media, which led to “a perception around fear of crime.”
“I think part of that perception is due to the amount of crime that is in the news. Maybe that’s a feature you don’t see as prevalent in our close neighbors, or indeed in our European neighbors.”
Mr. Harris was responding to a question from authority member Dr. Donal de Buitleir, who asked if fear of crime, especially among older people when high-profile crimes occurred, was justified or if the Republic was safer in comparison with other countries.
Mr Harris said the demands on Garda police services were growing and this would continue, especially as the population is projected to increase over the next decade. That meant that the goal of increasing the force to 15,000 sworn members over the next year or two would not be “enough” to meet the demands. A business case would be formulated to request more resources.
Police were also becoming more complex, and a range of specialized units had been created in the Republic in recent years, including anti-fraud and armed response units, other economic crimes and cybercrime. A variety of divisional protective services offices, which are specially trained to deal with victims of sexual offenses and other vulnerable victims, had also been put in place, all of which required staffing.
The authority’s chairman, Bob Collins, said comments from domestic violence victims and groups working to help them suggested that when they dealt with some Gardaí, it was clear they had an “inadequate understanding” of domestic violence laws.
Another member of the authority, lawyer Shalom Binchy, said the authority “continues to hear” in its consultations with communities that the Gardaí are unwilling to become involved in cases of domestic violence unless the victim has already obtained a court order, including security or restraining orders. against the perpetrator. He said victims were told the Gardaí could not “do anything for them” unless there was an order.
“We hear that people have made complaints, maybe they have evidence available, and the Gardaí are not coming to collect that evidence and are not following up,” he told Garda commissioner Drew Harris and his senior management team.
“What people want when they contact An Garda Siochana is for any crime they have reported to be investigated and we hear, repeatedly, in the area of domestic violence, that there are very serious shortcomings.”
Deputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon told the authority she would like to hear details of any cases where the Gardaí have failed to intervene and take action after alleged domestic violence has been brought to their attention.
Over the last two years, “significant training” has been carried out within the Garda to ensure that members of the force are aware of the various types of orders that can be made by courts to protect victims of domestic violence. . As a result, she would ‘hope’ that the Gardaí would be able to advise victims on such warrants and how to obtain them.