Foster seeks new laws to tackle domestic abuse
Arlene Foster has appealed for new laws to tackle domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader said they were needed to ensure perpetrators were dealt with through the courts.
She addressed a conference on the issue in Enniskillen organised by Fermanagh Women’s Aid.
Mrs Foster said: “Don’t feel you are alone or suffer in silence.
“Domestic abuse comes in all forms.
“We need to ensure robust laws are in place and perpetrators are dealt with through the courts.”
Police have said they need new laws against coercive control amid increases in domestic abuse incidents.
It is not currently a crime in Northern Ireland to commit such acts.
Coercive control is a deliberate and calculated pattern of behaviour and psychological abuse designed to isolate, manipulate and terrorise a victim into complete fearful obedience, Women’s Aid Northern Ireland said.
The organisation said a new law would give police more scope to pursue perpetrators and bring them to justice.
According to the PSNI, the 12 months from January 1 2018 to December 31 2018 saw 31,298 domestic abuse incidents, an increase of 1,611 (5.4%) on the previous 12 months and the highest 12-month period recorded since the start of the data series in 2004/05.
The number of domestic abuse crimes reached 15,680, an increase of 1,308 (9.1%) on the previous 12 months and the highest 12-month period recorded since 2004/05.
There were 17 domestic abuse incidents per 1,000 population and eight domestic abuse crimes.
Increases were seen across all main offence types, except for breach of non-molestation order.
All but one of the 11 policing districts showed an increase in domestic abuse incidents and all districts had higher levels of domestic abuse crime.