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Family members of victims to be consulted on how Ireland can introduce domestic homicide reviews

Pressure has been mounting to introduce the reviews after the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three children.

Photo of Clodagh Hawe with her mother Mary.
Photo of Clodagh Hawe with her mother Mary.
Image: RTE/Claire Byrne Live

THE GOVERNMENT PLANS to launch an independent study into introducing domestic homicide reviews to Ireland, as well as provisions for supports to families who are victims of familicide. 

The move comes after the family of Clodagh Hawe told RTÉ’S Claire Byrne Live programme that they were still seeking answers as to why her husband, Alan, murdered his wife and three sons in 2016.

Alan and Clodagh Hawe and their three children – Liam, 14, Niall, 11, and six-year-old Ryan – were found dead in their Cavan home in August 2016.

An inquest the following year concluded that Clodagh and her three sons were unlawfully killed by Alan who took his own life after the murders at their home at Oakdene, Balcony, Ballyjamesduff. 

The family later met with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan about the case and the Garda Commissioner appointed Assistant Garda Commissioner Barry O’Brien to head a serious case review of the murder. 

There is no legislation in Ireland to review cases such as the Hawe murders, though the Garda Commissioner has discretionary power to carry out a review. 

Consultation with families and stakeholders

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will today bring to Cabinet his plans for the independent specialist in-depth research study which will involve consultation with a range of stakeholders including State agencies, family members of victims and non-governmental organisations.

The first pillar of the study will examine the adequacy and suitability of current policies, protocols, procedures and practices of State services in supporting close family members of those who die in familicides. A series of recommendations will then be published. 

The study will also look at international best practice in respect of domestic homicide reviews in order to make recommendations in relation to their application in this jurisdiction.

While familicide is relatively rare in Ireland, the minister said he is very aware of the devastating effects it can have on those left behind, both family members and the wider community.

He is understood to want to ensure that clear protocols and guidelines are in place so that the State can provide all supports possible – and do so in a coordinated and timely manner.

Domestic homicide reviews

Domestic homicide reviews have taken place for a number of years in England and Wales. However it is understood that in his engagement with NGOs it became clear to the minister that this model cannot be directly transposed to Ireland, and would need to be tailored for this jurisdiction.

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The study he is commissioning aims to define international best practice and how these reviews might apply in Ireland.

Arrangements are being put in place for the review to commence. It is expected to take 12 months to complete.

A number of TDs called for the introduction of domestic homicide reviews in Ireland, with Fianna Fáil publishing a private members’ Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, in March which would order a review of the death of a person if it appears it occurred violently, or through abuse or neglect by a relative, spouse or a person with whom they were in a relationship.

Earlier this year it was announced that under a new system, specialist gardaí from the National Protective Services Bureau will examine domestic homicides.

It will involve examining any abusive history that led up to the killing as well as any interactions between the family and gardaí before the death.

A report by Women’s Aid at the end of last year found that since records began in 1996 225 women have died violently, with 16 children being killed alongside their mothers. 

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