635. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cases of domestic violence reported to An Garda Síochána in County Donegal in each of the years 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14293/20]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Combatting domestic abuse is a priority for me and my Department. It is an important aspect of the National Strategy for Women and Girls and the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence and a range of actions are being taken in that regard, including public awareness raising campaigns. My Department developed an inter-agency plan to address domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic and, in addition to the funding already allocated for 2020, has to date provided an additional €285,000 to date to organisations in the sector, to support and extend the existing services they offer during this period of the Covid-19 crisis.
I am informed by the Commissioner that An Garda Síochána too attaches the highest priority to domestic abuse incidents. This continues to be the case during the current Covid-19 pandemic and indeed a targeted, proactive operation, Operation Faoiseamh, has been established to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are supported and protected during this extraordinary time and to ensure that any domestic abuse incidents receive the highest priority response.
In its first phase, Garda Victim Services Offices nationwide made proactive contact with victims who have reported domestic abuse in the past, to identify any existing issues of concern. I am informed that over 8,200 contacts or attempts at contact to victims of domestic abuse were recorded by Gardaí as part of that work (between 1 January 2020 and 25 May 2020). I am further informed that Phase II of the operation began in mid-May and this involves a focus on targeting perpetrators - and in particular, cases of persistent breaches of protection, safety and barring orders under the Domestic Violence Act.
Gardaí also continue to develop their specialist services in this area and I understand that a total of 16 Divisional Protective Services Units have now been rolled out nationwide. This process is continuing and when complete, will meet a key action under 'A Policing Service for the Future', the implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
In relation to statistics on the number of incidents in Donegal as requested by the Deputy, I would first point out that the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics. The CSO produces these statistics using data including data recorded on An Garda Síochána’s PULSE system and makes regular releases under reservation in relation to various crime statistics, including recorded and detected crime. The CSO also continues to work with An Garda Síochána to address quality issues in the underlying sources used to compile the statistics.
However and in general, the Garda authorities have provided my Department with initial, provisional and operational data which shows that nationwide and in total, domestic abuse related calls have increased by 24% in the year to date; and that breaches of Domestic Violence Order Incidents have increased by 10% in comparison to the same time period last year.
Further and in response to the Deputy’s specific query in relation to Donegal, the Garda authorities have informed my Department that there were a total of 1044 domestic abuse incident reports in the Donegal Division in 2019; and that this year, from 1 January to 1 July 2020, there were a total of 560 such incident reports in the Donegal Division. I am informed that figures for 2018 are not comparable as the methodology at the time was different.
It is important to note that this is provisional, operational data and is subject to change. The Garda authorities inform me that these figures were arrived at through searches of the Pulse system to include incidents of the following categories: Breach of Interim Barring Order, Breach of Protection Order, Breach of Barring Order, Breach of Safety Order, Domestic Dispute - No Offence Disclosed, Breach of Emergency Barring Order, or any other incident type, with a recorded motive in Pulse of ‘Domestic Abuse’ and incidents recorded on PULSE where the dispatcher assigned the type as ‘DVSA’ (Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault).