At the end of September 2022, the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched the first Tackling Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Action Plan. Now, one year on, officers have arrested 1,298 perpetrators under new legislation (domestic abuse, stalking and non-fatal strangulation) and conducted hundreds of targeted patrols in their bid to relentlessly pursue perpetrators.

New legislation to strengthen the criminal justice response to tackling VAWG is being used robustly says Police. Since February 2022 to date, 1,069 arrests have been made for the new domestic abuse offence, since stalking offences were introduced for the first time in April 2022, 50 arrests have been made and for non-fatal strangulation, introduced in only July this year, 179 arrests have been made.

On 27th September 2022, the Police Service of Northern Ireland set out a clear seven year plan with 41 actions to affirm its commitment to building trust and confidence, relentlessly pursuing perpetrators and making all spaces safer for women and girls.

On the first anniversary today they have published their achievements to date, reporting that 23 of the 41 actions have already been completed, with progress made on the further 18. Actions completed to date include:

  • Developing a new tracking tool for reports of crimes against women and girls and targeting neighbourhood policing resources to these locations.
  • The introduction of a ‘Design out Crime Team’ who have already provided specialist support to over 130 projects and developments.
  • The successful initial roll out of the safeguarding codeword scheme, ‘Ask for Angela’, with over 350 local licensed business signed up.
  • Development of an internal communications plan to ensure officers and staff know how to report discriminatory or unethical behaviours. Over the last year (from 27th September 2022), eight misconduct hearings have been held in relation to sexual and or domestic misconduct resulting in seven dismissals.

Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, service lead for the relentlessly pursuing perpetrators theme said: Over half of our ambitions have been completed in year one of our action plan being made operational.

“We are sending a clear message that gender-based violence, abuse and intimidation is not and will not be tolerated, in our own ranks or amongst wider society. We have plans now to review the remaining actions, to which progress has already been made, and potentially add further actions for the Service as a whole to take forward in the coming years.”

The performance figures for these offences have also seen improved outcomes (charges/summons) particularly in respect of where there is domestic violence with injury. Sanctioned outcome rates for stalking have increased since the inception of the VAWG action plan and sit at 53%, non-fatal strangulation is at 40% and coercive control there has been continual improvement since 2021 from 25% to now 49%.

Detective Chief Superintendent McNally added: We are proactively tracking reports of violence, abuse and intimidation against women and girls and targeting neighbourhood policing resources to locations where they have reported feeling unsafe. We want to have a deterring presence in these areas.

“A total of 6,500 officers and staff have also undergone revised training on domestic abuse, encompassing coercive control, 5,000 are now trained to recognise and respond to stalking and 1,900 to respond to reports of non-fatal strangulation.

“We are using every power available to us and sending a strong message to perpetrators, that we are actively pursuing you and we won’t stop. This activity is firmly embedded into our business as usual and we are committed to continually improving on the service we provide to women and girls.

Read the full update here: What we are doing to tackle violence against women and girls? | PSNI