Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Justice and Equality
189. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to provide an update on the work of her Department to advance the recommendations of the O'Malley review of protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50419/23]
Ensuring that we have a victim centred criminal justice system that supports and protects victims for the duration of their journey through it has been a priority for me since I took office as Minister for Justice.
Zero Tolerance, the Government’s Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV), builds on the important reforms already introduced under Supporting a Victims Journey which is a detailed plan to implement the recommendations of the O'Malley Review.
A number of key actions have been delivered in this regard, including:
- The establishment of a course in University of Limerick to train intermediaries,
- Legislating for preliminary trial hearings,
- Undertaking a mapping exercise to identify gaps in services and supports provided for victims, both geographically and by service type, and the provision of increased funding to address them,
- The first cohort of staff at a new sexual offences unit in the Director of Public Prosecutions took up their roles,
- We are also running a campaign to raise awareness of the rights provided in the Victims of Crime Act 2017 and in the Victims Charter, and last month we re-launched a new phase on TV and radio, with a particular emphasis on reaching minority and harder-to-reach communities,
- Advancing the training for all personnel who come into contact with vulnerable victims and better supporting vulnerable witnesses in court.
- Extend victim anonymity to further categories of victims,
- Repeal provisions for sentences to be delivered in public, and
- Make provision for legal representation for victims in certain cases.
In furtherance of our ongoing work to raise awareness of, and work at a societal level to combat, domestic sexual and gender based violence, my Department will be launching a campaign on consent in healthy sexual relationships before the end of the month. This marks another key commitment made under Supporting a Victim’s Journey and under our Zero Tolerance Strategy.