THE latest PSNI domestic abuse statistics show the Fermanagh and Omagh Policing District has seen a rise in the number of these types of crimes - from 743 in 2017/18 to 835 in 2018/19.

The murder of Maguiresbridge woman, Concepta Leonard, by her former partner Peadar Phair who then killed himself in 2017 represents a stark example of what can go on behind closed doors in this area.

This comes with the news that the chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, has confirmed recommendations made by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) in Northern Ireland nine years ago still haven’t been implemented.

The CJI previously recommended that a properly funded Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service should be established as a matter of urgency – this has not yet happened.

Mr McGuigan added: “Likewise, we have endorsed the practice of listing or grouping domestic offences together at court on a specific day, as piloted in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court since 2011, and support its roll out across Northern Ireland in order to speed up the progress of domestic abuse cases and offer a more appropriate environment for victims attending court.”

This initiative has also not yet been put in place in Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuigan said there was “no excuse” for these failings.

His comments followed the publication of a CJI report on Wednesday, June 19 regarding how domestic violence and abuse is handled in Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuigan said: “Domestic violence and abuse can occur in any relationship. Its destructive impact can have far reaching physical, emotional and mental implications for victims and those closest to them.”

He also stated the need for fresh legislation to create a new offence of domestic abuse has been accepted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and other agencies - who have undertaken work in preparation for this.

But without Stormont functioning, and in the absence of Westminster filling this void, the requisite legislation cannot be introduced.

Mr McGuigan concluded by calling for progress on the issues raised in the inspection report to be made within the next six to nine months.

He added: “Sustained political and social pressure must be maintained in the coming weeks and months.”

Following the report, the head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, said the PSNI welcomed its publication and the “small number of recommendations contained within it for the Police Service of Northern Ireland”.

“As a police service we are committed to putting victims’ needs at the heart of what we do and anything that can be done to improve their experience within the criminal justice system is a positive development,” she said.