The Public Prosecution Service has opened a consultation on an updated Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Domestic Abuse.
Domestic abuse offences are regarded by the PPS as serious offences where the risk of re-offending by the perpetrator and the risk of harm to the victim is much higher than in other types of cases. The domestic nature of the offending behaviour is an aggravating factor because of the abuse of trust involved. Complainants will know and often live with, or have lived with, the offender. There may therefore be a continuing threat to the complainant's safety, and in the worst cases a threat to their life or the lives of others around them.
The Policy sets out the Service's approach to taking prosecutorial decisions on offences arising from domestic abuse and provides practical and legal guidance to prosecutors dealing with such cases.
The Policy also provides guidance in respect of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021. The Act has changed the way the criminal justice system views domestic abuse. Prior to this, prosecutors were restricted in law to viewing domestic abuse as a series of discrete incidents where the severity of the abuse was often gauged by the degree of injury inflicted or threatened. A new domestic abuse offence, which became law on 21 February 2022, now allows prosecutors to adopt a more holistic approach when considering cases of domestic abuse, ensuring that the range of tactics (not limited to violence or threats of violence) an abuser uses to control the victim is prosecuted where the evidence allows.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “Domestic abuse denies victims a right to feel safe in their personal relationships. It can have a significant and enduring impact on victims and children who often face a continuing threat to their safety.
“The PPS is committed to dealing with offences of domestic abuse in a fair, effective, sensitive and compassionate manner and without avoidable delay, in order to minimise any adverse impact that the process may have on victims and witnesses.
“We would encourage all interested parties, including victims, our partner agencies, representative groups and others to review the updated policy and provide any feedback through the consultation process.”
The consultation is now open and runs until Friday 24th February. You are invited to submit your views on the Policy by completing a short questionnaire on the NI Direct consultation hub.