Domestic abuse offence to be introduced in Northern Ireland
Westminster will legislate to introduce a new offence of coercive control in Northern Ireland, former Justice Minister Claire Sugden has announced.
In a statement this morning, Ms Sugden said she had been informed by Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice that the UK Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill, due to be introduced in Parliament today, will include Northern Ireland provisions.
In February, a cross-party group of MPs called on the Government to use the bill to extend protections under the law to Northern Ireland.
There has been an offence of coercive control in England and Wales since 2015 and a comparable offence in Scotland since 2019.
Ms Sugden said: “During my time in office, I made tackling domestic abuse my overarching priority. My biggest regret of the Stormont collapse is not fulfilling my promise to get domestic abuse law onto statute while minister.
“I promised to create a domestic abuse offence for Northern Ireland which would outlaw patterns of coercive control in domestic relationships. Coercive control is constructed though psychological abuse. It’s usually the reason why victims don’t just leave and also the beginning of physical violence. An accurate description is feeling like always ‘walking on eggshells’.
“Despite political stalemate, I have continued to lobby and work with the Department of Justice alongside voluntary groups to encourage this offence be brought into law via Westminster in the absence of a functioning government in Northern Ireland.”
She said the Department of Justice had “confirmed to me today that Westminster will extend their legislation to Northern Ireland to ensure that coercive control becomes a criminal offence in Northern Ireland”.
Ms Sugden added: “I would prefer that a functioning Northern Ireland Executive create this law because there are other elements in the NI version which cannot be taken through Westminster at this time. We are, however, long past wishing for an Executive to uphold their responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland; long past allowing victims to continue to suffer. The time was yesterday, but I’m pleased it’s today.
“I dedicate this outcome to survivors of domestic abuse. It’s their honesty of horrific experiences and their strength telling their stories that will hopefully stop others becoming victims. They have started the journey of eradicating domestic abuse in Northern Ireland. Thank you so much.”