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Sharp rise in sexual assaults and rapes


Gardaí also reveal rise in domestic violence incidents

Edwin McGreal

Reports of rapes and sexual assaults in Mayo have significantly increased.
Reports of rapes in the county more than doubled in the first six months of this year, compared to the corresponding period in 2020, from five last year to eleven this year.
For sexual assaults, reports have also risen, from 19 in the first six months of 2020 to 28 in the corresponding period this year.
Announcing the figures at last Friday’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting, Detective Superintendent Joe McKenna, who has responsibility for major crime in Mayo, attributed the rise to the establishment of the Mayo Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) last September.
The DPSU is a unit specifically to deal with rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse and child protection. The Mayo unit is based in Castlebar, has two detective sergeants, eight detective gardaí and covers the whole county.
“It has been a huge development for us and victims of sexual offences. We’ve seen an increase in people willing to come and report,” said DS McKenna. Some of those reports are historical, he told The Mayo News.
Officers in the DPSU are specially trained to deal with such investigations. They also investigate domestic-abuse cases, the numbers for which are also on the rise.
Acting Chief Superintendent Joe Doherty told the JPC that reports of ‘domestic incidents’ were up 8.3 percent for the first six months of this year, compared to the corresponding period last year. From January to June 2021, gardaí received 301 such reports, compared to 276 for the same period in 2020.
The figures for all of 2020 were, in turn, higher than 2019, with 583 total cases recorded last year compared to 571 in 2019.

Domestic violence calls
The issue of domestic abuse was raised by JPC member Keelan Moran from Westport and TD Rose Conway-Walsh.
Deputy Conway-Walsh asked whether An Garda Síochána is that confident domestic violence calls are being dealt with in an appropriate manner in Mayo.
“Can you give the assurances that women, and indeed men, if they ring their local garda station they will be dealt with with empathy and confidentiality and professionalism? It is important to get that message out,” she said.
Responding to questions about calls, Acting Chief Supt Doherty said a daily management meeting goes through all incidents reported in the previous 24 hours. They make sure incidents are categorised properly and have a policy of a call back within seven days.
“We strive for a high percentage rate in that, at least minimum 90 percent. A lot of the cases we don’t achieve for various reasons – the victim may be outside the jurisdiction, they might not be contactable. You may not always get 100 percent, but we set a very high threshold for these call backs.
“We may have to call back a third or fourth time until they are on their own. That’s how seriously we take it. We have a high percentage rate of call backs,” he said.

999 calls
Earlier in the meeting, following revelations in recent weeks about 999 calls nationally being cancelled, Cllr Michael Burke (FG) asked if there were any such issues in Mayo. “It is awfully important that people have full confidence in the service,” he said.
Supt Tom Calvey said that eleven such calls in Mayo are currently ‘being examined’ and that ‘the injured parties are being contacted’.

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