7 August 2020
ICCL welcomes many of the recommendations in the O’Malley Report- Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences- and the commitment from the Minister for Justice to implement these recommendations. We know many victims still find the criminal justice process demeaning and re-traumatising and more must be done to support victims throughout the entire process.
In particular, we welcome the commitment to introducing more protective service units in Garda Stations and the training of all Gardaí on dealing with victims; more information and advice for victims and more funding for the new Sexual Offences Unit in the DPP; requiring timely pre-trial hearings where defence lawyers would have to seek permission to cross-examine on the victim’s sexual history; the provision of legal representation for victims at such hearings – which, importantly, should be covered by legal aid; the introduction of video links to all court houses across Ireland; specialist training for judges, solicitors and barristers; and the introduction of sentencing guidelines for sexual offences.
These measures should be introduced without delay.
ICCL notes that many of these recommendations are in line with recommendations from victims support services. But last year we also heard about the need for other measures to protect victims at a high level conference on victims’ rights the ICCL organised.
For example, we need a victims’ ombudsman (a key ask in our submission on the new programme for government); more needs to be done to address the problem of significant delays in court proceedings (which proper pre-trial hearings and dedicated court lists would assist with); the need for greater consistency across Ireland in terms of facilities and procedures; the ticketing of judges and lawyers who have expertise in dealing with sexual offences and the creation of a practitioners’ website with up to date legislation and case law.
ICCL hopes supporting victims’ rights and continuing the implementation of the Victims Rights’ Act 2017 will be a priority of this government.
You can add your voice to the call for a Victims Ombudsman here