Landmark NI court warning on domestic violence statement withdrawals

By Lenore Rice

A Northern Ireland judge has issued a stark warning to domestic violence "bullies", saying that the withdrawal of a statement from a victim will no longer automatically mean that charges will be dropped.

Lord Justice Gillen refused bail to a man from Country Armagh who had been accused of a number of attacks. He had been out on bail and it was claimed that he had breached conditions that prevented him from contacting a certain woman or entering the town where she lives. It was alleged that he arrived at her house and that she was subsequently found lying on the street. The woman had made a statement to the police but subsequently withdrew it. The solicitor acting for the defendant said his client had presumed that the case against him would therefore be dropped.

However, Lord Justice Gillen denied bail saying that domestic violence was a "bullying, thuggish, demeaning behaviour". He added:

"There was a belief for some years by such miscreants that if they could prevail upon the vulnerable female to withdraw their statement that somehow charges would be dropped.

"That, of course, is no longer the position."

The warning could prove to be a major breakthrough for the ability of police in Northern Ireland to deal with people accused of domestic violence, as the willingness of the victim to press charges would no longer be essential to allow action to be taken.

If you require legal advice in respect of matter relating to domestic violence, including emergency and subsequent Court Orders such as non-molestation and occupation orders, contact one of the solicitors specialising in domestic abuse issues at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by calling 0800 840 1363.