How Violent is Northern Ireland? Part B
I made distinction in the previous article between murder and manslaughter. Murder is the deliberate and pre planned killing of another person. Manslaughter is an accepted case of less premeditation where someone has died. In terms of court disposals in this period there was 31 cases where one or more people where given life sentences quite often with significant minimum tariffs. Of the 112 cases some 36 where dealt with as manslaughter cases with a more determinate sentencing pattern. There were 10 cases where there was no information available via public information and where the outcome was unclear. Despite stereotyping and media misrepresentation only 4 of the 112 cases was dealt with by means of assigning the perpetrator to a mental institution such as Carstairs. This represents only 3% of the total.
Possibly the most interesting figure is where charges or convictions have not been brought. Of the 112 cases I would argue that 31 killings remain unaccounted for. However there is a significant factor in that in some cases the killer goes on to kill himself. As for example in the McElhill children tragedy. Two partner killings in this period , seen the partner kill themselves soon after the murder. No charges or case can be brought because there is no one to prosecute. This would account for 8 killings.
There is a significant lack of progress in organised paramilitary killings such as the UVF-LVF feud. However there are other notable cases where progress has been limited. Lisa Dorrian remains missing, assumed dead and despite media leads and rumours there have been no charges. During this period the killing of Robert Mc Cartney took place in January 2005. Despite the world wide attention and political elements to this slaying and despite arrests of high ranking IRA men no one has been convicted of the killing. Another high profile killing was that of Paul Quinn in 2007. The PSNI have no legal remit for this case as the killing took place across the border. However it is likely that the perpetrators are from the North. But again the case is heavily overshadowed by political aspects.
Overall the police would have a detection and clearance rate of over 80% in this period. If the paramilitary killings are excluded then this rate rises to slightly over 90%.
An uncomfortable figure for the British public is that every week 2 women will be killed by a partner or ex-partner. Does this fact show itself in N.Ireland? There has been a long and continuous line of partner and ex-partner killings in N.Ireland. In 2004 there were 6 such cases. Most of these resulted in manslaughter convictions. In two cases the partners killed themselves soon afterwards. There were 3 partner killings in 2005. In 2006 there were only 2 such killings but one being notable for the female killing the male. In 2007 there were 3 such partner killings. In one case the husband killed himself after the murder of his wife. Overall this total of 14 killings of the total of 112 represents 12 % of the total or on average over 3 a year. Notable partner murders seem to enthral the mass media e.g. the case of Paul Crymble in June 2004. Julie Mc Ginley killed her husband in August 2000 and in a later period outside this study was the case of the dentist Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart.
One theory that seemed to gain popular currency for some time was that the sudden and large rise in ethnic groups especially from east Europe was responsible for a rise in crime. Do the figures hold this to be that case? In terms of population figures, given that the ethnic groupings in N.Ireland represent some 8% of the population then this is what may be expected in the figures? Of course these violent deaths are heavily weighted towards males as perpetrators. The first main aspect of study is the intra-ethnic nature of the killings. White locals tend not to be targeted by ethnic groups or vice versa. In the period covered there were 6 killings involving foreign nationals. In one case in Dungannon a Lithuanian male was killed by local white youths. Two local woman were killed by foreign nationals. Both crimes had a sexual element. Of the other 3 killings, 2 involved Chinese nationals killing a Chinese national. The last case involved Lithuanians. So in terms of foreign nationals engaging in violence in this period there is only 5 of the 112 cases or about 4 and a half%. Well below the percentage of foreign nationals in the population as a whole.
Alcohol and Drugs.
One of the common threads to many of the illegal killings is that of alcohol. Drunkenness has been a significant factor in both murder and manslaughter. Of the 112 killings at least 38 have involved alcohol to some extent. This represents the largest rate of 34 %. In one case at a party the truth could not be established because everyone including the victim were extremely drunk. Judges have commented on the drinking culture. There were only 2 cases were drugs played a significant feature in the killing. Although there is the possibility of alcohol having also been taken along with the illegal drugs.
A clear factor in N.Ireland is that of the paramilitary groupings for example the dissidents continuing to kill security force members as well as each other. The organised crime and drugs gangs also inflict fatalities on each other over money and territory. Crimes of passion still exist and there was at least one sexually motivated killing. Revenge killings do exist for imagined slights or insults either on an individual or family. The largest motivating factor in this study concerns alcohol and the inherent aggression that is displayed especially by males when drunk. There is no one cause as such but especially given a party atmosphere, possibly with drugs, then extreme violence can be used. The effect of this is that detection is relatively easy. Setting aside the paramilitaries what we do not have in Ireland, north or south is the killer spree such as typifies America. This is where one person (usually) goes on a massive one off killing spree usually in a public place or school. Only recently there has been the strong suggestion of a serial killer in the Republic.
On reflection N.Ireland for the most part is much like any other western society. It is neither more nor less violent than say Germany. In comparison to some countries in the world N.Ireland and Ireland as a whole are safe places to live. Ironically, and research shows this repeatedly, if you are to be killed it will be by someone you know and quite possibly from someone in your family circle.