Police in the Mid Ulster District Council area have responded to 393 incidents of domestic abuse within the last twelve months, the MAIL can exclusively reveal.
A research paper commissioned by local Assembly Member, Bronwyn McGahan, has outlined the growing prevalence of domestic violence across Northern Ireland, and has prompted calls from the MLA for an urgent new strategy to tackle the issue.
Meanwhile, Mid Ulster Women’s Aid, which supports victims of domestic violence in the Cookstown and Dungannon areas, has told how the ever increasing demand for its services has meant they have been forced to turn women and children away from its refuge because they simply do not have the extra spaces.
However, Mid Ulster Women’s Aid say the report does provide hope because they believe more victims of domestic abuse are becoming more confident at reporting such incidents to the police.
According to the report commissioned by Sinn Fein MLA, Bronwyn McGahan, 210 of the domestic incidents were reported as crimes within the Mid Ulster Council area over the last year.
This figure alone was around a fifth higher this year than it was last year.
Responding to the statistics, a Mid Ulster Women’s Aid spokesperson told the MAIL: “These figures, of course, are just the incidents that have been reported to the PSNI. There are a number of domestic violence incidents that are never reported to the police.
“We provide refuge accommodation for a small number of women and their children at any one time and in the last financial year we housed 34 women and 24 children. Unfortunately there were 73 women and 56 children that we were unable to accommodate as our refuge was full.
“In the Mid-Ulster area alone, we received a further 262 referrals to support women in their own home. In addition we supported 82 children and young people on a one-2-one basis in relation to their domestic violence situation.
“The figures are increasing year on year, however, we believe women feel more confident about speaking out now even if they don’t go to the police, they will either access our service directly or another organisation that they are accessing will recognise the signs and symptoms of abuse and refer them on to us.”
Bronwyn McGahan MLA said: “The current action plan has been extended in the absence of a strategy and I would call on the health minister to bring forward a strategy as soon as possible. This is a cross-cutting issue and the Department of Justice will also have to implement the justice elements of the strategy. The research also shows that domestic violence costs the north £812 million with cases costing an average of £28,725.”