Global News | Feb 27, 2018

Domestic violence problem to be addressed at global gathering of experts in Belfast this week

Over 50 delegates including the PSNI, prosecutors and charity representatives unite in Belfast today at the start of a 3-day Justice Institute to help combat the rise of domestic violence in Northern Ireland

International experts to share their knowledge and experience

The Justice Institute will provide the tools for participants to identify, investigate, and better prosecute gender-based violent crime

Domestic violence is firmly on the local agenda this week as Northern Ireland’s most influential leaders from the legal, prosecution, law enforcement and frontline support sectors gather for the start of the first ever Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence to be held in the UK.

The internationally-led event which is taking place in direct response to the domestic violence problem sweeping Northern Ireland with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) responding to a domestic violence incident every 18 minutes of every day*, a quarter of all murders in the region in 2016/7 related to domestic issues** and domestic violence generally at a ten-year high***.

Funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, the Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence is an innovative and interactive training programme that provides participants with the tools needed to better identify, investigate and prosecute gender-based violent crimes.

The event which is taking place in The Merchant Hotel (27th February - 1stMarch) is being run by the Washington DC-based Vital Voices Global Partnership and the US Department of State, with experts flying in to bring their specialist knowledge to over 50 representatives from the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Office, criminal and civil justice workers, lawyers, and frontline workers. 

The three-day long event agenda includes –

  • How to more effectively investigate and prosecute gender-based violence
  • Best practice using a process-oriented approach to achieve the best possible results when investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases
  • How to evaluate, investigate, litigate, and dispose of cases locally
  • How to consider the impact of each of their decisions on the victim’s safety and well-being

In bringing the Belfast event to fruition, the Vital Voices Global Partnership has been supported on the ground by the Belfast Area Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership which comprises of the agencies, organisations and groups working locally in improving services and support for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Welcoming the Justice Institute to Belfast, Detective Superintendent Ryan Henderson from the Police Service for Northern Ireland, said: “Domestic abuse is real and present across Northern Ireland.  We respond to an incident of domestic abuse every 18 minutes.  Many of the incidents that we see daily are distressing, and often very complex, so it’s not something that we can change overnight.  However, with the right steps in place we can collectively make a difference and help change the landscape. We are hopeful for positive change as a result of this week’s Justice Institute.”

Noelle Collins, Team Leader at Belfast Women’s Aid, said: “We’ve been working very closely with Vital Voices in the US to ensure that the Justice Institute is tailored for the local landscape here in Belfast.  We have a unique political and social backdrop here in Northern Ireland that brings a range of challenges, but it’s only by bringing all the key stakeholders together to constructively move forward that real change can happen.”

Ciaran McQuillan, Acting Senior Assistant Director of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, said: “Domestic violence is a complicated and often very emotional issue – but one that needs change and a real focus to both tackle the crime, but also ensure that perpetrators continue to be brought to justice.  We’re looking forward to hearing different perspectives and solutions over the next few days and seeing how we can collectively deliver change to Northern Ireland.”

Christine Jaworsky, Director, Avon Foundation for Women, said: “Belfast was identified as uniquely well-suited to benefit from a Justice Institute not only due to its unique history of conflict and the impact of this on intimate partner violence but also due to its network of dedicated advocates working tirelessly to support survivors of violence.

“In the past years in which Avon has funded these Justice Institutes we have seen some truly inspiring and promising results and we are confident that the Belfast training event will help participants bring justice to victims and contribute to bringing an end to domestic violence once and for all.”

Since 2014 17 Justice Institute events have taken place in 10 countries with high rates of domestic violence, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Romania and South Africa.  


*Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland Annual Report 2016-2017

**Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland Annual Report 2016-2017

***McKeown, Gareth. (2016/11/25/) Retrieved December 27, 2017, from