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Engaging change in Northern Ireland

Letter to The Department of Justice

 

RE: Positive Action for Male Victims of Abuse.
I write to draw your attention to the statutory need for the Department of Justice (DoJ) to promote equality between men and women when implementing policies and practices relating to public protection.

 

In May 2023, Split the Difference submitted a response to the public consultation on DoJ’s draft domestic and sexual abuse strategy. We raised our concern that the draft strategy and related equality impact assessment both fail to identify, acknowledge or seek to mitigate against adverse impacts arising from the ‘gender neutral’ approach adopted in previous strategies. 

This includes a failure to identify, acknowledge or seek to mitigate against  the serious gaps in support and protections for male victims that we have highlighted to Department Officials in our March 2023 report. We believe that failure to address this oversight will make it impossible for your Department to achieve many of the aims and outcomes identified in the strategy. This will lead to adverse impacts for male victims from across the spectrum of Section 75 protected characteristics.

 

As you may imagine, we were disappointed to read that DoJ failed to fully acknowledge the existence of these significant gaps in your July 2023 Consultation Report. Had Department Officials done so, we believe that they would have been compelled to take positive action to address obvious adverse impacts for male victims arising from both your current and proposed approach.

Our understanding is that your strategy has now progressed to a revision stage and that you will be introducing a fifth pillar identifying outcomes and actions specifically for children and young people. This review process provides you with the opportunity to also introduce a sixth pillar addressing the needs of different ‘at risk’ groups. This pillar should include outcomes and actions specifically addressing the needs of male victims. This may be a proportionate act of positive action to mitigate against the adverse impacts we have brought to your attention.

A comprehensive positive action plan addressing the needs of male victims may further help to mitigate against potential adverse impacts arising from DoJ’s new role in also progressing gender specific actions solely for female victims under the EVWAG framework.

In October 2023, Split the Difference submitted a response to the public consultation on the Executive Office’s (TEO) Violence Against Women and Girls Framework. We advised TEO that withholding protections and regard for boys and men under this proposed framework may leave both them and and their Partnering Public Authorities vulnerable to complaints under The Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, The Human Rights Act 1998 and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Split the Difference is prepared to protect the rights of male victims of abuse through the courts if necessary. We believe that ultimately such action won’t be required and that common sense and human decency will ultimately prevail.

 

The Human Rights Act 1998; The Northern Ireland Act 1998; The Victim Charter Justice Act (NI) 2015; The Sex Discrimination Order (NI) 1976: The European Convention of Human Rights; UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and Rights of People with Disabilities; The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and The EU Victims Directive all contain articles asserting protection from discrimination due to personal characteristics. Even The Istanbul Convention encourages State Parties to apply the Convention to all victims of domestic violence, including male children.

 

Our March 2023 Report sets out 14 positive action recommendations that are primarily for the attention of Public Authorities represented on the domestic and sexual abuse and ending violence against women and girls Oversight Boards. I would encourage you to consider these.

 

I would also encourage you to attend our Briefing on the Need for Positive Action for Male Victims to be held in Parliament Buildings on Monday 20th November.

 

Finally, I would be grateful if you would arrange a suitable time to meet with me and discuss what positive action your Department intends to progress.

  • TEO reviews their three Human Rights Impact Assessments and mitigate against adverse impacts for male victims arising from the single sex specific approach adopted by the strategic framework and foundational action plan.

  • TEO works in partnership with the relevant Partnering Authorities and agrees a parallel positive action plan (led by DoJ/H) to address structural and attitudinal barriers that male victims of intimate violence encounter when seeking protection, support and justice from Public Authorities.

 

Our understanding is that the Departments of Justice and Health’s draft Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy has progressed to a revision stage and that they will be introducing a new pillar identifying outcomes and actions specifically for children and young people.

 

We have written to their Department Heads requesting that they also introduce a pillar addressing the needs of different ‘at risk’ groups. We believe that this pillar should include outcomes and actions specifically addressing the needs of male victims and that this may be a proportionate act of positive action to mitigate against the adverse impacts we have brought to your attention.

Split the Difference is prepared to protect the rights of male victims of abuse through the courts if necessary. We believe that ultimately such action will not be required and that common sense and human decency will ultimately prevail.

 

The Human Rights Act 1998; The Northern Ireland Act 1998; The Victim Charter Justice Act (NI) 2015; The Sex Discrimination Order (NI) 1976: The European Convention of Human Rights; UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and Rights of People with Disabilities; The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and The EU Victims Directive all contain articles asserting protection from discrimination due to personal characteristics. Even The Istanbul Convention encourages State Parties to apply the Convention to all victims of domestic violence, including male children.

 

Our March 2023 Report sets out 14 positive action recommendations that are primarily for the attention of Public Authorities represented on the domestic and sexual abuse and ending violence against women and girls Oversight Boards. I would encourage you to consider these.

 

I would also encourage you to attend our Briefing on the Need for Positive Action for Male Victims to be held in Parliament Buildings on Monday 20th November.

 

Finally, I would be grateful if you would arrange a suitable time to meet with me and discuss what positive action your Department intends to progress.

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