PPS welcomes publication of Criminal Justice Inspection report on Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act

Publication date:

The PPS has welcomed the publication of Criminal Justice Inspection’s review of the effectiveness of Part 1 of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021.

Inspectors looked at how the Public Prosecution Service, Department of Justice, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service had implemented the new provisions since the legislation was commenced on 21 February 2022.

The PPS’s Head of Policy & Information, Dr Richard Scullion said: “The development of the 2021 Act was a recognition that domestic abuse causes long-lasting and far-reaching harm to victims and their loved ones, including children and young people. The Act introduced a number of important measures, including a new domestic abuse offence and a range of aggravating factors that can be considered by the court when cases of domestic abuse are prosecuted.

“We welcome this timely Inspection to assess how effectively the Act has been implemented. The PPS undertook extensive preparation for the Act, which included training delivered by the Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland, the provision of detailed guidance for prosecutors and administrative staff and, earlier this year, the publication of a new Domestic Abuse Policy. A comprehensive Service Level Agreement has also been implemented between the PSNI and the PPS, clearly setting out our respective roles and responsibilities in relation to the investigation, management and prosecution of cases involving domestic abuse.

“We are pleased to see the inspection team’s positive conclusions about the quality of the decision making in domestic abuse cases. Now that the legislation has been in place for two years, there is a much greater understanding of the evidence required to prove a course of abusive behaviour which is an essential element of the domestic abuse offence. However, we accept that further work is needed to embed the new provisions and to improve how we and our criminal justice partners handle these cases.

“We are carefully considering the recommendations in the report, which are accepted in full, and an action plan has been drawn up to implement the necessary changes. These will include a renewed focus on the identification and prosecution of the domestic abuse offence and the recording of reasons for our decisions in all cases involving domestic abuse.”

In concluding, Dr Scullion outlined the help that is available to victims. 

“Prosecutors taking decisions in cases involving domestic abuse understand the complex dynamics involved, and the impact of trauma on victims and witnesses. These cases continue to be a main priority for us, and the safety of victims is at the forefront of our considerations when prosecuting such cases.

He said: “The PPS will carefully consider every case we receive and will robustly prosecute if the evidence allows and the Test for Prosecution is met. We can apply to the court to put in place Special Measures to help victims and witnesses give their best evidence.

“Our Victim and Witness Care Unit provides a dedicated point of contact from when a file is received from police through to the conclusion of any court case. There are also specialist organisations who can offer practical and emotional support to victims and witnesses of domestic abuse. 

“My consistent message to anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse is: don’t suffer alone - please report what has happened to the police.”