Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has backed the call from the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, for legislation providing protection on the issue of coercive control, which applies in Great Britain, to be extended to Northern Ireland. In the continued absence of a local justice minister and functioning Stormont, Mr Swann also called for local political support for the measure to be dealt with as part of a domestic abuse bill to be introduced at Westminster, and which could include the relevant provisions that have yet to be extended to Northern Ireland.
Robin Swann MLA said:
“I very much welcome Brendan McGuigan’s comments because they mirror the Ulster Unionist Party’s position.
“In February I wrote to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley voicing our frustration at the failure to restore a devolved Assembly and functioning Executive in Northern Ireland and stating that our frustration is compounded by the fact that the people of Northern Ireland are suffering as decisions are not being taken in key areas such as healthcare, education and a whole raft of other key areas, including justice.
“I pointed out to the Secretary of State that one area in which there should be unanimity from local political parties is legislation designed to help tackle domestic abuse and coercive control, which had been progressing through Assembly but has been halted due to the ingoing impasse.
“According to PSNI statistics, there were 29,913 domestic abuse incidents recorded in 2017/18. This is a truly shocking number and it is simply outrageous that the absence of an Assembly has meant that legislation to protect vulnerable people, which applies in England and Wales, has still not been introduced in Northern Ireland.
“I understand that the Home Office is preparing a domestic abuse bill to be introduced at Westminster and that the Department of Justice is assessing whether or not that could be used as a vehicle to extend coercive control legislation to Northern Ireland.
“Let me be absolutely clear. People need protecting and the police and courts need powers to help protect them. The Ulster Unionist Party is fully supportive of any moves to ensure that this legislation is implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency and if a Westminster Bill can be used to achieve this, then I say get it done.
“Surely the passage of legislation to protect vulnerable people is something on which all parties can agree?”