Extra court sittings to deal with abuse rise

DUP MLA, Claire Sugden.
DUP MLA, Claire Sugden.

The rise in levels of domestic abuse across Northern Ireland means specialist court arrangements in Derry could soon be extended.

According to police figures, domestic abuse is on the rise across Northern Ireland. Now, Justice Minister David Ford has revealed that specialist listings for domestic violence and abuse cases, introduced in Derry Magistrates’ Court just over three years ago, could be extended to other courts.

An increase in the number of crimes with domestic abuse motivation was recorded in the Foyle policing district, according to the statistics highlighted by East Derry DUP Claire Sugden MLA.

The rise in Derry has been slight, with 2,448 crimes with domestic abuse motivation in 2013/14 and 2,405 in 2012/13.

Justice Minister David Ford recently put at least some of the increase in the number of recorded crimes down to an increase in awareness and support after questioning from Claire Sugden MLA.

Asked by DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow, whether there were any plans to extend specialist listing arrangements because of the rise in domestic abuse, the Minister said: “Specialist listing arrangements for domestic violence and abuse cases were introduced in Derry Magistrates’ Court in November 2011.

“I note that a positive evaluation of these arrangements has recently been completed which recommends that these measures and initiatives are introduced in other courts.

“Officials from the Department and the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, therefore, will consider the potential for extending the use of these listing arrangements to other areas.”

The Minister continued: “I have also asked my officials to consider whether there is scope for further development of the Derry Magistrates’ Court arrangements.”