“HORRIFIC and shocking” were the words used by Clare’s Green Party senator to describe a rise of almost one-third in the number of barring orders breached in this county over the last nine months.
Senator Róisín Garvey expressed grave concerns about the figure, which was revealed to members of Clare’s Joint Policing Committee by Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran.
The Garda chief outlined that there had been 52 breaches relating to barring orders and safety orders between January and September of last year. Over the same period in 2020, the figure increased by 16 to 68, a rise of 31%. The number of domestic disputes increased by 7% in the first nine months of this year.
Reacting to the figures, the Inagh-based senator questioned what additional supports were in place to respond to the situation. “This is an really shocking figure,” she said. “If you have a barring order, you fear for your life. Breaches like this are horrific. What I am really concerned about is whether there are extra supports there to help people in these situations. This is a horrific and shocking statistic.”
Representing the Public Participation Network (PPN), Madeline McAleer suggested that more clarity on the figures might be required, because of the difference in the nature of the orders.
“In the case of a safety or protection order, Someone can still be in the house,” Ms McAleer outlined. “When it comes to a barring order, they can’t. Maybe we need these figures to be further broken down the future.”
Senator Garvey also called for greater detail in relation to the data provided on the numbers of sexual assaults this year and last. Chief Superintendent Colleran outlined that there had been ten rapes reported in a nine-month period in 2019, with a lower figure this year. The exact number was not disclosed to the meeting for confidentiality reasons. Reported sexual assaults decreased 15% from 26 in 2019 to 22 between January and September of this year.
“I would like to see these figures organised by gender,” said Senator Garvey. “These assaults are mostly perpetrated against women. The figures should be used to determine what kind of supports need to be put in place.”
The senator’s call was supported by Ms McAleer, who said that more male victims of sexual assault might be encouraged to come forward if details were released on the gender of the injured party.
Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne agreed that a gender break-down would be a welcome measure. “I believe it would encourage males to report abuse,” she said.
In relation to the figures on breaches of orders, the Sinn Féin TD said, “I have seen situations where these are difficult to enforce and that is a big concern”.
Deputy Cathal Crowe said that people were often reluctant to report domestic abuse. “I would worry that the true figure won’t emerge in these statistics,” he said. “I have taken a number of calls from people in this situation and while you can coax people, you can’t make them report it.”
Councillor Pat McMahon added that shame was a factor that sometimes stopped people from coming forward.
Chief Superintendent Colleran said that any increase in domestic abuse was of huge concern. “I would like to think some of it is down to people feeling more confident in reporting,” he said. “In relation to breaches of barring orders, there is strict enforcement and people will be arrested and brought before the courts.”
The Garda chief described in the increase in domestic abuse as “disturbing”. “The reality is that we cannot force people to report,” he said. “We can offer guidance and support. We do have a call-back system to check on people who have called us. When people have had time to think they might be more likely to report.”