Domestic Abuse Law To Progress Through Stormont

Northern Ireland's Justice Minister is to progress legislation to criminalise abusive behaviour in domestic and family relationships.

The laws, being forwarded through Stormont by Naomi Long, will make it an offence for a person to engage in abusive behaviour on two or more occasions against someone they are personally connected to.

It's hoped the legislation will close a gap in the justice system and offer better protections to victims.

Minister Long said: "I want to send a clear message that domestic abuse in all its forms, including both physical and non-physical controlling and abusive behaviour, is wrong. No longer will those who abuse a partner, former partner or close family member be able to evade justice.

"Too many people, both men and women, suffer from abusive behaviour on a daily basis. The new offence will recognise that domestic abuse is not only physical but can be much more insidious.

"For many, for too long this has been a hidden problem. We can, and will, bring it out into the open and shed light on what can often be a dark secret."
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The domestic abuse offence will allow early identification of abusive behaviours, intervention and prevention as well as access to information and advice.

It covers controlling and coercive behaviour and that which amounts to psychological, emotional or financial abuse of another person. It also includes acts that are physically violent, threatening or intimidating.

Courts will gain new powers to increase the sentence imposed up to the maximum that would otherwise be available when the domestic abuse offence involves a child as a victim under 18, or they see, hear or are present for the abuse. The law also applies when children are used in order to abuse another person.

The maximum penalty for the most serious offences is up to 14 years.

"I want to legislate for the new offence in a way that provides the best outcome for victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland," Minister Long added.

"I want to pay tribute to our statutory and voluntary sector partners who have, and continue, to work with my Department to ensure that the domestic abuse offence provisions locally will be as robust as possible and meet the specific needs of Northern Ireland."


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