A new report by Women's Aid says there are significant failings by the criminal justice system in relation to domestic violence.

It highlights that the relationship between the victim and the offender is not recorded in official data.

The report, called 'Unheard and Uncounted', contains findings of a year-long media watch of domestic violence cases, between May 2018 and April 2019.

It highlights that the majority of those interviewed in the report did not feel safer nor felt a sense of justice had been done following their case. Most also said they would not, or were unsure of, going through the process again.

A woman was the victim in 63 out of the 65 cases (97%) included in the report, while the incident in each case took place in the women's home in 52% of cases.

Of the 50 sentences in cases included in the group's report, 45 were prison sentences ranging from one month to eight life sentences. Of these sentences, 38 were either partially or fully suspended.

The report also states that the perpetrators of the abuse were current partners in 58% of cases, with ex-partners the perpetrator in 38% of cases. Forty-one of the victims were reported to have sustained physical injuries.  

Children were present in the home during 21 incidents, during which five children were reported as being injured.  

CEO of Women's Aid Sarah Benson said that over 100 charges were brought in the 65 cases.

These included assault, threats to kill, rape, false imprisonment, sexual assault, trespassing, firearms offences, abduction of a child and attempted murder.

The group said the report 'Unheard and Uncounted: Women, Domestic Abuse and the Irish Criminal Justice System' points to a system that is "deeply flawed, fragmented and not for purpose when dealing with the complexities of domestic abuse".

Ms Benson said women who come to the group often say the outcomes of criminal proceedings against their abuser are inadequate, and essentially nothing more than a "slap on the wrist".

The report also details the conclusions from a consultation of 20 women who experienced a wide range of criminal behaviour from their partners or exes.

The women involved said they had "good, mixed and negative experiences" when contacting gardaí, and described the criminal justice process as "inconsistent, long, draining, slow and emotional".

Some women felt that they were on trial rather than the accused. 

The consultation also pointed to a reductive "incident based" approach to domestic violence.

It also pointed to a lack of joined-up thinking within the legal system "which fails to acknowledge the persistent, repetitive and long term experiences and impacts of abuse and disregards the interplay of criminal and family courts".

The report also highlights a "significant data gap" relating to domestic violence. 

The group points out that the relationship between victim and offender is not recorded in the Central Statistics Office nor in Courts Service data. 

Therefore they say domestic violence offences are not identifiable in the data, and it is not possible to analyse domestic violence related crimes and sentences effectively. 

Ms Benson urged caution around drawing conclusions from their findings, as they come from media reports containing partial information, as well as being a reflection of media interest rather than a definitive picture.

Women's Aid is the national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its direct services. 

If you are affected by any of the issues in this report, contact Women's Aid on 1800 341 900.

Additional reporting Helen Donohoe