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Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021

Section 9: Aggravation where relevant child is involved

This section provides that an allegation may be specified alongside the domestic abuse offence that it is aggravated, through involving a child (under 18) who is not the accused or the partner/connected person.  This includes the child of either person.

Subsection (2) sets out that the domestic abuse offence is aggravated by reason of involving a relevant child if any or all of the aspects set out at (2)(a) - (2)(c) are met.

Subsection (2)(a)(i) provides that the aggravation applies where it is shown that, at any time in commissioning the offence, the accused directed or threatened to direct behaviour at a child.  This could include the accused threatening violence towards a child to control or frighten the partner/connected person or being abusive towards the child.

Subsection (2)(a)(ii) provides that the aggravation applies where it is shown that, in committing the offence, the accused made use of the child in directing behaviour at their partner/connected person.  This could apply where the accused encourages or directs a child to spy on or report on the day-to-day activities of a partner/connected person.  The involvement of the child could be unwittingly or unwillingly.

The aggravation would apply to the involvement of any child in the domestic abuse offence (apart from when the child is the partner/connected person, which would be caught by section 8).  This would include, for example, the accused or victim’s own child, another child living in or visiting the household, or a neighbour’s child.

Subsection (2)(b) provides that the aggravation applies where a child saw, heard or was present during a single incident of the course of behaviour.  This could, for example, be a verbal abuse incident or a physical assault and the child need not necessarily be in the same room as the accused and partner/connected person.

Subsection (2)(c) provides that the aggravation applies where a reasonable person considers that the course of behaviour, or an incident of behaviour which the accused directed at a victim as part of the course of behaviour, to be likely to adversely affect the child.

Subsection (3) provides that there does not need to be evidence that a child ever had any awareness, or understanding of the nature, of the accused’s behaviour or to have been adversely affected by it.

Subsection (4) sets out that nothing in this section prevents evidence from being led about a child’s observations of, or feelings as to, the accused’s behaviour, or a child’s situation arising from of the accused’s behaviour.

Subsections (5) and (6) sets out that, where the charge together with the aggravation is proved, the court must state on conviction that it is aggravated and take the aggravation into account when determining the sentence, as a factor which increases the seriousness of the offence.  The court is also required to state how it has affected the sentence and in recording the conviction shows it as aggravated by reason of involving a person being under 18 (who is not the accused or the partner/connected person).

Subsection (7) makes it clear that if the aggravation is not proved, but the charge is proved, conviction is as if the aggravation were not referred to alongside the charge.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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