Study on Familicide review published

Submissions made by family of the late Clodagh Hawe.

An independent study examining international best practice in the conduct of domestic homicide reviews in Ireland, promised to surviving family of Clodagh Hawe and her three young boys, has been published.

It follows commitments give in meeting between then Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan and Mary Coll and her daughter Jacqueline in February 2019, after which arrangements were put in place by the Department for a study on measures to prevent and address matters relating to the unlawful deaths of family members.

The Coll family had previously made submissions in the context of the tragic loss of Clodagh and her three sons- Liam (13), Niall (11), Ryan (6)- murdered at their home near Ballyjamesduff in August 2016 by dad and local vice-principal Alan Hawe.

In May 2019, the late Norah Gibbons, was appointed to chair the group to conduct the ‘Study on Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews’, later retitled as a ‘Study on Familicide & Domestic and Family Violence Death Reviews’.

Ms Gibbons though sadly passed away in April 2020, and Maura Butler, Chair of the Association for Criminal Justice and Research, was subsequently appointed to lead the study.

The study team met with many of the families of victims of Familicide and Domestic Homicide, including the Coll family.

In addition, the study team met with relevant State departments and agencies and other relevant organisations, as well as receiving a number of submissions following a public call in June 2019.

The study team also offered interested parties an opportunity to meet with members of the study team to tell their story.

The study was submitted to the department last year, but due to the gravity of the subject matter and impact on victims’ families, thorough examination of the report was necessary before publication.

Today (Wednesday), Minister for Justice Simon Harris welcomed the publication of the study as he brought it Government, ahead of beginning work on implementing its recommendations.

As part of that a consultative group, with family members of victims, is to be established.

“None of us can begin to understand the appalling impact of something like this unless you’ve lived through it. That’s why we are so grateful to the families for engaging in the process and for giving of themselves and their time,” said Minister Harris following publication. “It took tremendous bravery and selflessness to use their own experiences of unimaginable pain to make our systems better, and we are indebted to them.”

Recognising the difficulty of the subject, he noted the importance of listening to families of those bereaved.

“We really needed to hear that lived experience to understand where the system is working and, more importantly, where it is not working. Fundamentally, of course, we want to try to prevent such incidents from happening.

“But, where you can’t prevent, we want to ensure the whole system responds appropriately to ensure that individuals and communities are supported.”

Following publication, the Department of Justice is convene a cross functional Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to examine how to bring forward, as appropriate, any recommendations contained through implementation of Zero Tolerance, the Third National Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) Strategy.

In addition, it is intended to convene a small advisory group of relevant NGOs for consultation as part of the implementation process.

Minister Harris has meanwhile also committed to an advisory committee drawn from the families to work with the Department of Justice on the recommendations.

Action on a number of recommendations is already underway through the Zero Tolerance strategy.

These include:

• the CSO will begin work on a National Prevalence Study of domestic and intimate partner violence next year

• the new agency for Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, which will be established next January, will assume responsibility for a national refuge strategy, with the provision of refuges already accelerating under Zero Tolerance

• new DSGBV Agency to significantly improve the collection of data

• improved education on domestic, sexual and gender based violence

• better training for those most likely to encounter DSGBV victims

• risk assessment protocols

Minister Harris added: “Earlier this month I met with all family members who have contributed to the report. We discussed not only their experiences and the report, but also the next steps and key actions, including those identified by the families in our discussions.

“This was absolutely necessary and the right and proper thing to do and all family members now have a final copy of the report.”

He says he is now committed to enacting “suitable recommendations” as a priority.

“I want to get going on the next steps – to implement the recommendations. The way to do that is by bringing this to Government, as I have done today, and to publish it.

“Once published, we will be able to bring together the three groups that will really be central to helping us advance the most important recommendations of the report.

“Most importantly there will be a family group - made up of families of victims interested in working with us - that will operate in parallel to the other two groups.”