A report on crime trends has revealed that the majority of murders in Ireland last year had a domestic abuse motivation.
A Garda review of crime found a 399% increase in domestic abuse motivations for sexual offences from 2020 to 2021.
While the figures show that murders overall have fallen, the proportion of those with a domestic abuse motivation represented more than half of murders for the first time in 2021.
Last year also saw the highest number of recorded incidents of sexual offences in almost a decade.
Between 2019 and 2021, 80% of victims of sexual offences were women and 69% of victims were women aged 34 or younger.
The figures were published by gardai following an analysis of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence crimes.
Sexual offences with a domestic abuse motive increased substantially between 2020 and 2021.
They accounted for 26% of all sexual offences in 2021, the figures show.
Gardai said this is partially due to the introduction of the victim offender relationship on the Pulse system.
For men and women, most sexual offences happen in residential locations, 62% and 52% respectively, based on incidents between 2019 and 2021.
Data also shows that domestic abuse is primarily gender-based and has shown increases over the last nine years.
Some of this increase is due to improved data recording while some is due to increases in reporting.
While the increased incidents of domestic abuse can be partly attributed to Covid-19 and related restrictions, the rate of recorded abuse has continued to rise post-lockdown.
In the first quarter of 2022, domestic abuse calls and incidents were 13% higher than the same period in 2021.
The data also shows how men and women experience violent and threatening crimes differently.
For female victims, there is a close link between domestic abuse and sexual and other types of violence.
A domestic abuse motive was recorded for 90% of all women who were victims of murder, manslaughter, infanticide and 43% of all women who were victims of attempted murder, threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences between 2019 and 2021.
Male victims, while also experiencing domestic abuse, are more likely to be subject to violence by offenders unknown to them or in incidents not relating to domestic abuse.
Between 2019 and 2021, a domestic abuse motive was recorded for 11% of all men who were victims of the three crime groups examined.
Between 2013 and 2021, last year was the first and only year in which there were more murder, manslaughter, infanticide incidents relating to domestic abuse than for any other motive – 13 and 12 incidents respectively.
A Garda spokesman said there have been “significant efforts” to develop training, policy and awareness in the force of the nuances of domestic abuse.
It said that while efforts to improve data recording and to encourage reporting have led to an increase in cases, gardai say there is still an element of under-reporting.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, gardai launched Operation Faoiseamh to provide support to victims of domestic abuse.
The data shows that the number of call-backs made to victims of domestic abuse went from just under 3,000 in January 2020 to more than 4,000 in May 2020.
Similarly, the proportion of call-backs made to victims within seven days increased from 38% at the beginning of 2019 to more than 70% in April 2020 and remained at that level or higher throughout 2020 and 2021.
Meanwhile, offenders in incidents of violent and threatening behaviour are more likely to be men for incidents with male or female victims.
Among incidents from 2019 to 2021, where at least one offender had been identified, when a woman is the victim, a man is the suspected offender in 74% of incidents.
This increases to 94% of incidents relating to domestic abuse of women.
When a man is subjected to violent and threatening behaviour, another man is the suspected offender in 88% of incidents.
For the sub-set of incidents where the victim offender relationship is available, women are also more likely than men to know the offender, with 84% of women knowing the offender compared with 61% of men.
The most common relationship type for female victims is a current or former partner or spouse: 33% of all female victims.
For men, where there was a known relationship, the largest proportion falls into the other offender known to the victim category at 22%.
The report also shows that children experience violent and threatening crimes in a sizeable proportion and, on occasion, majority of reported incidents.
Between 2019 and 2021, 11% of all homicide victims, 60% of all sexual offences victims and 14% of all attempts to murder, threats to murder, assaults, harassment and related offences victims, were children at the time the incident occurred.
The high proportion of child victims of sexual offences is influenced by incidents reported many years after they occurred, that is, adults reporting experience of child sexual abuse.
The number of attempts, threats to murder, assaults, harassment and related offences has been trending upwards.
The highest number of incidents between 2013 and 2021 was recorded in 2019 when there were 21,835 incidents.
This group has also seen changes in the proportion of men and women victims. Whilst the majority of victims are men in all years, the proportion of women has been trending upwards.
Women also made up 38% of victims of attempts, threats to murder, assaults, harassment and related offences in 2013, compared with 44% in 2021, the figures show.
Detective Chief Superintendent Colm Noonan said: “An Garda Siochana is unwavering in our commitment to supporting victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and investigating and prosecuting offenders.
“As a society, there has been a hugely positive sea change in how we view, understand and tolerate domestic abuse in our homes and in our communities, and how absolutely unacceptable it now is.
“This report and the detailed analysis and trends it provides, particularly around the increased and enhanced recording of the victim offender relationship and domestic abuse motives, will inform us, at an operational level, on how we can build on the successful achievements of Operation Faoiseamh.”