Justice Minister Naomi Long opened the PPANI (Public Protections Arrangements NI) agencies’ annual Special Interest Seminar. She welcomed nearly 100 attendees who joined virtually to discuss the impact of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act legislation enactment planned for early 2022.

The legislation will see coercive control becoming an offence in NI for the first time. Coercive control includes psychological abuse and non-violent intimidation.

The effect that domestic abuse can have on children is also reflected in the legislation, with enhanced sentences possible in cases where:

The victim in a relationship is aged under 18

Where a child sees, hears or is present during an incident of abuse

Where a child is used to abuse a victim

As a result, a number of changes will be made to criminal procedures, evidence and sentencing in domestic abuse related cases.

PPANI Strategic Management Board is currently chaired by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and made up of representatives including probation, prisons, NI Housing Executive, Health Trusts, and victim’s organisations. These agencies gathered to discuss their plans to implement this legislation into their everyday practices, making training ahead of its launch a top priority.

Justice Minister Naomi Long welcomed the commitment demonstrated by all in attendance to ensure the new legislation has a positive impact. She said: “This legislation is an important step in changing the conversation we have about domestic abuse. There is no shame in being a victim of domestic abuse or coercive control. The shame lies with the abuser. Completion of this legislation will play a crucial part in giving victims the courage to know that they are not in the wrong, they have nothing to be ashamed of, they will be listened to, to know the system works and importantly that it has their back.

“Training will be essential to the success of the offence and this is now the focus of my Department, as well as our statutory and voluntary sector partners. Public awareness is also key. I am committed to ensuring that everyone recognises that domestic abuse, whether physical or non-physical, has no place in the homes of Northern Ireland and will not be tolerated. I welcome the coming together of partners today to discuss this important issue.”

In 12 months from 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020 there were 31,848 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland

Currently 252 Category 2 and Category 3 (requirement for multi-agency management and review every 16 weeks) offenders are being assessed and managed under the multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements in Northern Ireland, 87 of which are in relation to domestic abuse offences.

This new legislation will close a gap in current PPANI arrangements to include consideration on non-violent perpetrators, with abuse in the form of coercive control.

Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally who currently chairs the PPANI Senior Management Board said: “This legislation will have a hugely positive impact with a clear definition on what constitutes domestic abuse and provide further tools needed to arrest and prosecute offenders.

“It was important to get agencies together to discuss our preparedness to date and share learning and good practice. The title of our seminar this year is ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’ – this is fitting as one agency alone can’t combat these crimes.

“By working together we can make sure we are ready for the launch of this legislation so that it has the impact it should, that our most vulnerable are supported and safeguarded, offenders are brought justice and that they are then effectively managed if they re-enter our communities.”

To date over 4000 PSNI officers have gone through specific training in preparation for the new Domestic Abuse Bill.

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