Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
437. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps that have been taken to implement the report by her Department, Supporting a Victim’s Journey: A Plan to Help Victims and Vulnerable Witnesses in Sexual Violence Cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49408/21]
Supporting a Victim's Journey is an ambitious plan which is introducing important reforms to support and protect vulnerable victims and ensure our criminal justice system is more victim-centred.
I am deeply committed to implementing in full all of the recommendations set out in Supporting a Victim's Journeyand I am chairing an Implementation Oversight Group comprising all relevant departments and agencies responsible for driving the implementation of the agreed actions.
To date, a number of key actions have been delivered as part of implementing Supporting a Victim’s Journey including:
- Legislating for the introduction of preliminary trial hearings;
- The nationwide rollout of Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSU);
- The first cohort of staff at a new sexual offences unit in the Director of Public Prosecutions office formally took up their roles in April;
- Work to advance the training for all personnel who come into contact with vulnerable victims is underway;
- The University of Limerick has been commissioned by my Department to develop the framework for the operation and training of intermediaries.
In addition to the above, a review of the supports and funding of civil society organisations providing frontline services has been conducted to identify where gaps may exist and how to bridge them. Specific geographical areas and categories of victims that are not adequately covered by NGO supports have been identified and my Department is engaging with relevant NGO partners to agree revised funding to ensure that we meet the gaps identified. This piece of work will be completed shortly.
To promote more sustainable service delivery and planning, we are also offering multi-annual funding commitments to key NGOs we work with and where funding covers staff salaries. These funding grants cover accompaniment to court, to Garda interviews and to sexual assault treatment units and emotional support and counselling.
Minister Harris and I have also agreed with NUIG Active* Consent to fund the creation of an e-learning hub, which will – for the first time – provide an integrated, publicly available resource on consent awareness and learning bringing together a variety of related educational and promotional material in one place. The information hub will go live late this year, with further elements being rolled out early in 2022.
In relation to the updates on sexual offences legislation that have been recommended in the O’Malley Report, the scoping exercise has been completed and work has started on drafting the heads of a General Scheme of a Sexual Offences Bill.