Northern Ireland ministers publish update on domestic and sexual violence strategy

Northern Ireland ministers publish update on domestic and sexual violence strategy

Naomi Long

Progress on a cross-departmental strategy to stop domestic and sexual violence and abuse in Northern Ireland has been published.

The ministers for justice, health, communities, education and finance have published an action plan setting out proposed activity for year seven of the seven-year domestic and sexual abuse strategy as well as a progress report detailing developments during 2021/22.

Key cross-departmental actions for year seven include:

  • Develop and consult on a new domestic and sexual abuse strategy.
  • Commencement of Protection from Stalking Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 and introduction of a new stalking offence and Stalking Protection Orders.
  • Continue to develop the Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (‘IRIS’) programme with General Practice.
  • Implement Operation Encompass on a phased basis to provide for information sharing with schools, colleges and training facilities.
  • Review and reassess current work programme to ensure teachers have the necessary skills to teach about sensitive subjects, including child abuse as well as domestic and sexual abuse.
  • Develop existing Sexual Offences Legal Advisers, by extending the service to children, as well as legislative proposals to clarify the entitlement to pre-trial third party representation on disclosure and object to the raising of previous sexual history.
  • Develop additional guidance and tools to strengthen and support the operation of the Local Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnerships.
  • Develop and implement an action plan to address recommendations from independent research commissioned on the Sanctuary Scheme
  • Progress actions reflecting the review of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme, including consideration of how to raise public awareness.
  • Examine learning from the first 18 months of operation of Domestic Homicide Reviews.
  • Seek victims’ views on their experience of engaging with PSNI and seek opportunities to develop the concept of domestic abuse champions within local policing teams.

Justice minister Naomi Long said: “During this last year we have seen the passage of three important pieces of legislation on domestic abuse, stalking and sexual offences which will provide greater protections for victims.

“A new domestic abuse offence is in place, making a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour a crime. An eLearning package and multi-media advertising campaign accompanied this to raise awareness.

“A new advocacy support service was also introduced last September, primarily to help those going through the criminal justice system. At the end of March 1270 adults and 120 children had been helped by the service.”

The action plan is the seventh to be issued under the strategy and is based on partnership working across government as well as with statutory, voluntary and community sector partners.

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