DRCC welcomes proposed reforms of sexual offences trials
06 August 2020
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) welcomed today’s publication of the long-awaited report on the Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences. The review group is chaired by NUI lecturer & barrister Tom O’Malley.
DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell said: “This report is a clear recognition from Government that it is not appropriate to treat crimes of sexual violence just like any other crime. Such crimes are a deep violation of the dignity and the person of the victim and can cause sometimes lifelong harm. This marks out the trial of such offences from other criminal trials.
“While we have on several occasions noted the delay in the publication of the report, we recognise the complexity of the issues that Mr O’Malley dealt with and the erudition he brought to the topic. Equally, we welcome the commitment from Minister McEntee to implement his recommendations without delay and with the resources required. This commitment is as powerful as the many excellent recommendations and Dublin Rape Crisis Centre will be urging Government to ensure its implementation in the shortest possible time in line with its commitments in the Programme for Government.”
The review is lengthy and will require some time to assess its full potential. However, some very positive reforms have emerged that will greatly improve the situation for victims. The Centre is pleased to note that many of the recommendations it made in its submission to the review group carry though in this report.
DRCC notes the review’s call for much more extensive information and advice for victims, whether or not they report the crime. This includes a recommendation to make available legal advice for people as they proceed through the justice system. It also includes support from court-based intermediaries where needed for full communications.
The report calls for appropriate training for all professionals who are interfacing with victims in the justice system, particularly lawyers, including judges. It proposes education on the enduring impact of trauma on victims and awareness of the existence of myths and biases in our society that affect how these legal actors do their work.
The review also recognises the problems associated with the long drawn out investigation and trial process in the prosecution of sexual offences. In this regard it makes proposals around pre-trial hearings to deal with preliminary matters before a case is set down for hearing. DRCC knows from its accompaniment of victims to court how important it is for them to give this sensitive evidence at the time they expect to give it.
The report calls on the recently established Judicial Council Sentencing Guidelines & Information Committee to prioritise the drafting and publication of guidelines for sexual offences.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre particularly acknowledges all the victims who have borne witness to the difficulties in the justice system; their experience and courage informed this report and the Centre’s own submission.
Notes for editors:
- The Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences will be available on Department of Justice website.
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s submission to the review consultation process (made in December 2018) is at https://bit.ly/drccdec18.
- 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.
- DRCC continues to operate the National 24-hour Helpline 1800 778888 for those who need support in any part of the country with no reduction in service.
- DRCC offers counselling & therapy to clients and provides accompaniment to the Rotunda Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, to court or to Garda stations to people in Dublin and in surrounding areas by arrangement.
- Outreach offices at Coolock Civic Centre, Dóchas Women’s Centre, Mountjoy Prison, Balbriggan and Tallaght Hospital are usually open at select times, but physical premises are closed during the COVID19 crisis and clients are being supported remotely.
- We ask that when reporting on this topic, journalists 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 88 for anyone who may be affected by the discussion.
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is one of the frontline services engaged with the Department of Justice & Equality on its #StillHere campaign. The www.stillhere.ie website contains information on supports and services for people affected by domestic violence including sexual violence, as well as digital & online safety and courts, legal aid and advice.