THE brother of murder victim Concepta Leonard says he welcomes a new scheme allowing people to find out if their partner has a history of domestic violence but says it has come “too late” for his sister.
Fergal Leonard was speaking after The Department of Justice initiative came into force on Monday in a bid to curb domestic violence. It means potential victims can get answers from the PSNI about their partner’s history.
May 15th will mark one year since 51-year-old Connie, as she was known locally, was killed by her former partner Peadar Phair at her home on Abbey Road, Maguiresbridge. Her only son Conor (31), who has Down’s syndrome, raised the alarm despite having also been seriously injured in the devastating attack.
The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVADS) is modelled on ‘Clare’s Law’, introduced in England and Wales in 2014 after Clare Wood (36) was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009 in Manchester. Her father campaigned for the law, saying his daughter would still be alive if she had known about Appleton’s violent record.
Concerned third parties who know those involved can now also make inquiries while police will have ‘power to tell’ where they can act on information that comes their way by other means. Officers can disclose the information with potential victims or those best placed to protect them or take direct action if the risk is immediate.
Fergal Leonard said this week that while the move marks an important step in tackling domestic abuse, he wishes he could have used DVADS to protect Connie from her tragic death.
“One of the things I have learnt about domestic abuse is that many times when the woman is suffering she doesn’t want to tell anyone about what is happening. I think it’s really important that girls under any threat of domestic abuse lets their family know.”
He added: “I welcome the fact that ‘Clare’s Law’ is now in place but it’s a bit too late for my sister, Conor and our family unfortunately.
“I would encourage any girls who are suffering domestic violence to make full use of this facility.
“We all live in fairly small and close communities and you often hear stories about people. They could be malicious rumours or facts.”
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