The need for a law outlawing “coercive control” is “critical” following the suspension of the Stormont Assembly, it has been claimed.
Police recorded the highest number of domestic abuse incidents to date in 2017/18 – equivalent to one every 17 minutes.
In 2017/18 a total of 29,913 incidents were reported in Northern Ireland.
Brendan McGuigan, chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, said: “The need for greater legislative protections to address the issue of coercive control has already been accepted, and work has begun, but the introduction of new laws will be delayed until a devolved government is restored or legislation is introduced in Parliament.
“The systemic failure to deliver faster, fairer justice in Northern Ireland only adds to the levels of attrition normally associated with these crimes and the frustration that victims may feel.
“The need for a response from a functioning legislature is critical.”
Coercive control is something which campaigners have been pressing to have extended from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
It covers a range of behaviour which does not involve violence within a relationship.
The Local Government Association describes it as “a concealed method of power and control used by perpetrators (offenders) that perpetuate an ongoing mental torture of fear, intimidation and humiliation for the victim”.
It came to recent prominence in the case of Sally Challen, an English woman who attacked her husband, beating him 20-plus times with a hammer which she had brought with her in her handbag.
Her supporters claimed she had been a victim of “coercive control”.
She was recently freed, after her murder conviction was commuted to manslaughter (she had already served years in jail).