Members of an expert committee on domestic violence including Kristin Schmit (second from left), Taina Bofferding (LSAP, third from left) and Laurent Seck (right). Photo: MEGA

Members of an expert committee on domestic violence including Kristin Schmit (second from left), Taina Bofferding (LSAP, third from left) and Laurent Seck (right). Photo: MEGA

Domestic violence data should be accessible in police records for more than three years, law enforcement and other groups have urged amid an increase in reported cases in Luxembourg.

Luxembourg’s police force responded to more than 983 calls about domestic violence last year, up 7.2% compared to 2021 when it intervened 917 times. This means that police respond to two to three calls per day.

“Domestic violence is daily business for the police,” said Kristin Schmit, who represents the police force on a working group that every year assesses and monitors data on domestic violence and also includes the public prosecutor’s office, women’s shelters and support groups.

Officers receive special training in their first year. “It’s a difficult mission,” Schmit said. “They must be aware that it’s a potentially dangerous situation.”

One of the problems in researching domestic violence offenders is that data on previous offences is only accessible to the police for a period of three years. But there can be long periods of time between incidents, said Laurent Seck of the public prosecutor’s office.

An ongoing reform of criminal records and databases kept by the police and justice system should see this increased to five, but Seck is advocating for an even longer period, such as ten years.

Harsher penalties

Nearly a quarter of offenders who were ordered by a court to leave their home last year registered as repeat offenders, but this number could be higher if previous incidents are further in the past.

Police in 246 cases ordered the offender to leave their home last year, down from 249 the year before. This order is initially for a period of two weeks but can be expanded to three months. Offenders who have been expelled must seek counselling, but Riicht Eraus--a service by the Red Cross that works with perpetrators--said fewer than two-thirds do, with insufficient punishment when they don’t show up.

 (LSAP), minister for equality between women and men, at the press conference on 21 June presenting the annual numbers said she could envision stricter sanctions without however, specifying any specific measures.

The minister could also not immediately indicate the next steps to change data protection rules on offender data, although she said she supports the idea and that the government had taken note.

Seck said he hopes for an amendment of the draft law that is already in the making, but this will require involvement from the ministry of justice and an opinion by the national data protection authority (CNPD).

“It’s never enough”

Despite the increase in reported cases, Bofferding said this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is more domestic violence in the country. Rather, there is more awareness and support. “The taboo around domestic violence has been broken,” she said, adding that friends, family or even neighbours increasingly get involved and call police.

Women represent 60% of the more than 1,830 victims identified by police, with more than one victim in many homes. Men represent 70% of perpetrators, although this rises to 93% of offenders expelled from their home.

“It is important that we continue investing in working with offenders,” Bofferding said. Preventing domestic violence from happening is a form of victim protection, the minister said.

The expert group recommended conducting a survey on perpetrator data to get a better insight into their background and profiles. However, this will require access to police records over a longer period of time.

This could help assess which measures addressing offenders work and which are less successful. “Not every offender responds to every therapy,” Bofferding said. “We are doing a lot, but somehow it’s never enough.”