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Clare Local Area Network chairperson, Sergeant Caitriona Houlihan and Detective Sergeant, Paul English of the Clare Divisional Protective Services Unit, outside Crusheen Garda Station. Photograph by John Kelly

Large increase in domestic abuse cases in Clare

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NEW figures show a steep rise in incidents of domestic abuse, with Clare’s most senior Garda pledging the issue is “top of the agenda” for the force, writes Fiona McGarry.

Outlining figures for last November to January, Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran said breaches of court orders, including barring and safety orders, was down 16% on the same period for 2020/21. Domestic disputes, however, increased by 49% in that time frame.

The Chief described the breach of orders as “red flag” offences.

“They are a concern because it means that orders are in place,” he said.

“There is a reduction of 16% and that requires a proactive response by us in terms of breaches, including the arrest of suspects in those cases.”

The sharp rise in the incidence of domestic disputes where no offence is disclosed was also described as a cause for concern.

“These are calls for service where we interact with complainants in domestic-related incidents,” the Chief outlined.

“The fact that there has been an increase of 49%, you can look at it in a number of ways. You can look at the fact that people have comfort to come forward to a police organisation and report it.

“We now have a framework that if people want to come through and make a complaint, we have the capacity and the capability to investigate that.

“For someone to come and report an offence to An Garda Síochána, or the statutory bodies, it’s very rarely the first time it has happened.

“We have a process and we ensure that the people complaining are provided with the necessary supports, in the event they want it formally investigated, but notwithstanding that, we have robust processes in place.

“We now have a Domestic Protective Services Unit (DPSU). Certainly, we are competent in how this is dealt with, but the reality is the figures speak for themselves with a rise of 49%. It’s top of our agenda and something that is proactively investigated by us.”

In respect of sexual offences, 11 detections were outlined for the period from last November to January. “Some of them are historical in nature,” the Chief outlined.

“Certainly, with the use of inappropriate content on mobile phones, that’s also starting to feed into the reports that we are receiving now. It’s certainly something that we are confident we can investigate and we have the capacity.”

Madeline McAleer of Haven Horizons highlighted the work of the multi-agency Clare Local Area Network (CLAN) in addressing domestic, sexual and gender-based abuse.

She said that the forthcoming seven-year plan for the JPC should include a separate heading on the issue.

“It’s coming into a lot of areas including security and interagency work, holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring the safety of victims,” she said.

“Longford and Westmeath are now setting up local area networks. I’m facilitating that and it’s based on the great work that’s being done here in Clare.

“That’s also being put forward nationally and the Minister for Justice knows about the work being done in this area so congratulations to everyone in Clare on the issue, because it is an issue that needs a lot of focus.”

Clare Haven can be contacted 24 hours a day on 065-6822435 or Clarehaven.ie.

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