Fears over domestic abuse stats

By Cormac O'Keeffe
Security Correspondent

Women’s Aid has called for increased efforts by An Garda Síochána to address the “massive undercounting” in the proper recording of domestic abuse in sexual violence offences.

It follows the publication of a review by the CSO of the quality of Garda crime data.

The review saw the CSO analyse crimes with either a domestic abuse motive or a discriminatory motive (such as racism).

The analysis took a sample of 200 cases of physical and sexual assault offences in 2017 and examined all the information in the crime incident on the Garda Pulse system.

    It found:

  • Of the 200 samples examined, 41 indicated domestic abuse, but just 19 recorded domestic abuse being the motivation behind the attack (46% of incidents);
  • Of the 100 rape and sexual assault offences, 19 indicated domestic abuse, but it was recorded as the motivation in only one case (5% of incidents);
  • Of the 100 physical assaults, 22 indicated domestic abuse, while 18 were flagged as such in terms of motivation (82% of incidents).

The CSO report says domestic violence was recorded by selecting the appropriate motive type within the incident’s modus operandi (MO) data field.

“Statistics on domestic violence rely entirely on accurate completion of the MO field,” said the report.

The CSO said its sample indicated that Garda domestic abuse statistics considerably understated the actual number.

Margaret Martin of Women’s Aid said while the CSO found systematic improvements within the Garda in terms of recording and classifying crime generally, that had yet to happen for violence against women.

She said while domestic abuse was being mentioned somewhere in the narrative of the crime report of the sexual offences studied, in only one of the 19 cases was it recorded as the motivation — saying this indicated “massive undercounting”.

She said the relationship between victim and perpetrator was key for domestic abuse, as was the frequency of violence — which she said needs to be captured.

She said it wasn’t clear why the recording of motivation was so out of skew. She said it could be because the Garda had “so many things to improve” that there was “massive catchup”. Ms Martin said it could also be down to training gardaí in how to accurately identify domestic violence.

“In general crime, they have made strides, but for violence against women, we need an extra injection of knowledge, good practice and monitoring,” she said.

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