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 Header Item Proposed Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Domestic Homicide

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan] Notwithstanding that, I assure Deputy Collins that a number of options are under consideration. One possible course of action might be to amend the 1965 Succession Act to provide that, in cases such as these, the joint tenants of property would be deemed to have held the property immediately prior to their deaths as tenants in common. I assure the House that there is no stalling of legislation here, there is no undue delay, rather there are complex issues. I am sure Deputy O'Callaghan will acknowledge that.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Minister will also be aware that the family of Clodagh Hawe made a number of other requests. They have requested amendments to the Coroners Act and that a special investigation unit for familicide and family annihilation be set up. They have also asked that information gathered in the course of an investigation be shared with the next of kin as expeditiously as possible. They have also proposed that, at the conclusion of an inquest in a case of familicide, the book of evidence be published. Have these requests been given careful consideration? They are complex requests, as we know, and the whole area is quite detailed, as the Minister said. This is against the backdrop of the fact that, since 2000, there have been 27 cases similar to this and involving murder-suicide. Could the Minister give a comment about the other requests the Hawe family have made?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I assure the Deputy, bearing in mind those 27 cases he refers to, that this is an issue which will be the subject matter of research and I hope to appoint a chair and committee of experts shortly. Many of the issues that were raised in the course of a meeting with the Coll family in my office centred around changes to the legislation. I have already assured the House that I am acting on Deputy O'Callaghan's Bill and the Succession Act. I wish to acknowledge the Deputy's drafting of that Bill. I assure the House that we must tread very carefully having regard to unforeseen or unintended consequences. One of the issues which the family raised with me was the need to have a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. That meeting took place last week and I believe the family found the meeting useful and constructive. It provided some clarity on aspects of the case. We are also looking at coroners' legislation.

I am not sure if the specific requests of the family require extensive legal change other than the Bill under discussion. Changes may be required in case management, practice, procedure and protocols. I am keen to have all the issues that were put to me in that meeting are addressed.

Domestic Homicide

 2. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if legislation will be introduced to provide for domestic homicide reviews as have been introduced in the UK (details supplied). [12167/19]

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Tá an dá cheist ceangailte i slite. Tá go leor cainte agus díospóireachta le cúpla seachtain anuas faoi chás uafásach Clodagh Hawe agus a teaghlach. Roinnt de na rudaí a bhíothas ag iarraidh ná an Bille Cróinéirí (Leasú) 2018, a bhfuil an Teachta Collins tar éis déileáil leis, aistriú reachtaíochta, agus maoiniú. Bhí ceisteanna ann faoi cé a fhaigheann maoiniú fresin. Ceann de na rudaí a bhí á bplé ná go bhfuil gá le hathbhreithniú maidir le dúnmharaithe a tharlaíonn sa bhaile. Táimid láidir den tuairim go bhfuil gá leis sin. Táim ag súil go dtógfaidh an Rialtas sin ar bord agus go gcuirfidh sé reachtaíocht ar bun cosúil leis an reachtaíocht atá ann i Sasana.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the Deputy for his question and I assure him that I am giving careful consideration to the issue. I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is currently developing new policies and procedures to inform its approach to domestic homicide reviews in An Garda Síochána.  It is envisaged that these reviews will examine the sufficiency of Garda policies in this area, their interactions with other external agencies and with the individuals and family concerned.

The reviews will be a separate exercise to the investigation of the domestic homicide and their purpose is to serve as a lessons learned review to facilitate better practice in the approach to domestic abuse. This is a useful and necessary practice and will assist An Garda Síochána in seeking to continuously improve their approach to domestic abuse.

As the Deputy is aware, a range of other agencies may be involved in such cases in addition to An Garda Síochána.  As I announced following my recent meeting with the Coll family, my Department is currently preparing terms of reference for a study on the support needs of family members where a murder-suicide has occurred.  As I have said, I envisage this study also examining the process of domestic homicide reviews and experience to date in other jurisdictions, with a view to making recommendations in relation to their application in this jurisdiction. One such recommendation may include proposed legislative changes. I look forward to engaging further with the House in relation to the recommendations arising from this study, which will be carried out by a person with appropriate experience and expertise.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Tá an-suim agam sa mhéid atá ráite ag an Aire. Tá sé cuibhseach nua i gcomhthéacs an mhéid atá ráite aige cheana.

Deputy McDonald had two asks when she raised this case in the Dáil a number of weeks ago. The first was that the Minister meet the family of Clodagh Hawe. I acknowledge he has done that. The second was about the need for legislation governing domestic homicide reviews. That is provided for under British legislation which will be extended to the North after public consultation. It is vitally important. The Minister has made reference to the processes that An Garda Síochána has put in place. That is not based in statute and is not automatically multi-agency.

I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say. It sounds to me that he has an open mind to legislative change that would put in place something similar to what exists in Britain. If that is the case, and the Minister confirms that, it would be welcome. What is the timescale for this study on support needs that might give rise to such a recommendation?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As I said in reply to Deputy Collins, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to engage face to face with members of the Coll family and listen to them outline their experience and their suggestions arising therefrom. I am anxious to broaden that and involve research that includes other families and their experiences over the past number of years.

It could well be that legislative change will be required here. That is why my Department and I are closely monitoring developments in other jurisdictions, particularly in England and Wales. In those jurisdictions, a domestic homicide review is a locally conducted, multi-agency review of the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 years or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, neglect or abuse. These reviews were introduced in legislation in Britain which came into force in April 2011. The purpose is not to reinvestigate the death, or indeed to apportion blame, but to establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide about the way in which the local professionals and organisations work.

I agree that there are lessons we can learn from other jurisdictions and we are doing that.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Tá sé ceart go mbeadh muid ag féachaint ar dlínsí eile. The need for a domestic homicide review is a long-standing demand of Sinn Féin and other organisations such as Women's Aid. The 27 cases of familicide that the Minister and Deputy Collins referred to are to the fore of our minds but they cannot be separated from a wider picture of serious issues of domestic violence and murders. Nine of ten murdered women are killed by someone who knows them. Half of them are killed by a current or former partner. Some 61% are killed in their homes and there have been 225 of those cases since 1996 as of November last.

This is a serious issue and I hope the Minister recognises there is a need for legislation in this area. There is also a need for this to be based on a multi-agency basis. Organisations such as Tusla have a central role to play in any such legislation. Can the Minister give us a timeline as to when all this will be completed? He indicated that he saw value in other legislative provisions. When can we expect the recommendations to that effect to be made, if indeed they will be made?

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