DRCC hails significant state action to progress rights of sexual violence victims

17 July 2023

Speirs aug 2020 courtroom

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said a wide-ranging new bill on sexual offences and human trafficking will address some long-standing issues affecting victims and survivors of sexual violence and must be progressed with all due haste.  

DRCC said the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023 signalled last week by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee but published today by the Oireachtas is part of a wave of significant state action on progressing the rights of victims of sexual offences, with another piece of legislation, the Criminal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 just awaiting the President’s signature to become law. 

Welcoming these initiatives, DRCC Policy Manager Shirley Scott said: “The new Miscellaneous Provisions Act will specifically outlaw stalking and non-fatal strangulation, as well as increase the potential length of sentence for assault. This sets an important marker that these forms of abuse constitute serious sexual crimes and will not be tolerated in this country. The proposed changes in trials in the draft legislation published today include removing some anomalies about the meaning of consent, strengthening the capacity to identify victims of human trafficking and providing anonymity and some limited extension of legal aid to victims of sexual offences in court. These changes should make it somewhat easier for victims of sexual crime to come forward and be supported in accessing justice.” 

Adding to the DRCC comment, CEO Noeline Blackwell noted: “The issues addressed in the new legislation and the proposed bill have been identified by victims, by legal and policy experts and by the Government in its own National Strategy to end Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence as barriers to reporting and prosecution of sexual offences. These changes are badly needed. We hope that the draft Bill now published will receive speedy attention when the Oireachtas sits again after its summer break as the measures it proposes are crucial to advance victims’ rights to justice.” 

She went on: “While the measures now enacted and proposed are welcome, it is disappointing to see that there is still no provision to ensure that a key party to proceedings, the victim, has access to legal advice from the outset and as they need it during the investigation and trial process. This was recognised as a necessary part of supporting victims in their journey through the justice system and its absence denies victims the right to be fully informed and equipped to deal with the system, where they play such a crucial part in their own cases, and on behalf of all society.” 

Anyone affected by sexual violence can contact the 24-hour National Helpline for free, non-judgmental and confidential support at 1800 778888.  

Comprehensive information on options for survivors is also available online at drcc.ie/fyw  



Notes for editors:    

1. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023 is available at https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2023/62/   

2. It will put into effect long-standing recommendations from a variety of sources including DRCC and will:  

  • Remove an anomaly in the law on consent in rape cases which allowed defendants to escape conviction even where their belief that the victim consented was totally irrational Provides that character references presented at sentencing hearings be given under oath, so those giving the reference may be called before the court for cross-examination; 
  • Guarantee anonymity of victims in all sexual offence trials; 
  • Provide some limited additional legal aid support for  victims who are being questioned on other  sexual experience; 
  • Transfer responsibility for investigating all sexual offences committed in Ireland by  Defence Force personnel  to An Garda Siochana and to the regular criminal courts rather than military courts; 
  • Strengthen the recently established national focal point for human trafficking  offences to better support and identify victims, including improved cooperation with agencies such as NGOs. 

3. The Criminal Law (Misc Provisions) Bill is available at https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2022/83/  

4. Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is a non-governmental, voluntary organisation which has as its mission to prevent the harm and heal the trauma of rape. It offers a suite of services to victims/survivors of sexual violence. It also offers a wide range of training and education to professionals and volunteers.   

  • DRCC operates the National 24-hour Helpline 1800 778888 to support anyone affected by sexual violence in any part of the country. A webchat support service is available online at drcc.ie Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm. A Helpline Interpreting Service is available for those who do not speak English - more at https://bit.ly/DRCClang  
  • For those contacting the Helpline who are deaf or hard of hearing, we provide a text service, operating Mon-Fri from 8am to 6:30pm, at 086-8238443 and we also have a webchat service available Monday-Friday, 10am to 5pm, except holidays. 
  • Information on your options after sexual violence is available for free online at any time at www.drcc.ie/fyw in the Finding Your Way after Sexual Violence guide. 
  • DRCC offers counselling & therapy to adult survivors of sexual violence and to older adolescents from 16 years of age with parental/guardian consent. 
  • We provide accompaniment support for the Rotunda Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, to court or to Garda stations to people in Dublin and in surrounding areas, by arrangement.    
  • We have outreach offices at Coolock, Dóchas Women’s Centre, Balbriggan & Tallaght. Access to these services must be arranged via the National Helpline 1800 778888 during working hours, Mon-Fri.    

5. We ask that when reporting on this topic, journalists should remember that discussions on sexual violence can trigger personal trauma in those receiving the information. Where possible, please make reference to the National 24-hour Helpline 1800 77 88 88for anyone who may be affected by the discussion.