The Head of Community Development and Leisure presented the above report, details of which had been previously circulated to Members. The purpose of the report was to seek Members’ approval of a draft response to the Department of Justice Consultation on Enhancing Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic Abuse.
Councillor Ferguson endorsed the recommendation within the report. She stated that the figures were stark for this city and district with 801 domestic abuse incidents reported and 407 crimes recorded between April and September 2020. She also noted that there was 1,616 recorded in a six-month period and stated that a lot needed to be done and welcomed that Council proposed to become one of the geographical locations that will pilot the scheme. She enquired if Council Officers, had been contacted by Nexus regarding trying to access rural areas, as an increase of domestic violence in rural areas was occurring but not reported. She stated that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council had introduced the ‘Here to Help’ app. She stated that the app enabled local people to quickly access contact details for a range of support services available to them in the borough. She asked if Officers would consider investigating how this app could be introduced to this Council area.
Councillor Mooney endorsed the recommendation within the report. He stated that the report was criminal justice centred as it dealt with criminal justice and domestic violence and agreed with the proposals for the Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders.
Councillor Logue stated that she welcomed the consultation. She asked if Community Restorative Justice could be included in the answer to question 6 of the consultation. She stated that there were local groups within the DEAs who would deal with community safety, therefore she felt it would merit if they were included in the consultation. She suggested that head teachers also be included as there were often children in the midst of domestic violence and they would certainly witness the impact within schools. She further requested that La Dolce Vita project be included. She referred to questions 17, 32 and 21 and advised that she would forward her Party’s comments in relation to those matters to the relevant Officer.
In response, the Head of Community Development and Leisure stated that he did not currently have the details and noted that officers would ensure that the team within PCSP reflected Members’ views on the consultation.
Councillor Logue stated that she would compile a summary of her comments and would forward them to the appropriate officer for inclusion in the consultation response.
Alderman Devenney stated that the DUP supported the draft response to the consultation. He stated that it highlighted the high numbers of male or female victims of domestic abuse. He stated that the Covid situation had exacerbated the situation and he felt that numbers would increase.
The Chair stated that he wished to add his support to the consultation as he had some family members who had suffered from coercive abuse at the hands of a partner which was not nice to witness and left family members feeling helpless. He hoped that when this was taken forward it would protect victims from all types of domestic abuse.
Recommended that Members approve the draft response to the consultation with the inclusion of Members’ further comments.