A new unit manned by specially trained gardaí to investigate sexual crimes and domestic violence is to be established in the West Cork region.
The Protective Services Unit (PSU) will be established at Dunmanway garda station and is expected to be operational by the end of the year.
News of the move was confirmed at a meeting of the Cork City and County JPC (Joint Policing Committee) by Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan, who is in charge of policing the West Cork region.
He said the unit will be manned by two detective sergeants, 10 detectives and a number of support staff.
They will undergo training at the Garda College in Templemore in the next two to three weeks.
The unit will work closely with Tusla and with West Cork Women Against Violence.
Approximately 100 crimes of a sexual nature are reported to gardaí in West Cork on average each year.
Chief Supt Cadogan said that Dunmanway garda station was chosen to house the unit for a number of reasons, but primarily because of its accessibility.
“Dunmanway is on the bus corridor to everywhere in West Cork and the garda station is just 200 yards from the bus stop. Not everyone has a car so that's important,” he said.
The senior garda also pointed out that the garda station had been extensively refurbished in recent years.
In 2007 the Garda Representative Association (GRA) threatened to remove its members from the station because of the appalling conditions they were enduring working there.
The GRA mounted a picket and forced the government to carry out a major refurbishment of the building.
As a result Chief Supt Cadogan said there would only be some minor “cosmetic-type work” needed to be carried out to accommodate the PSU staff.
He said the OPW was expected to get these works completed within 10 weeks, which will include the provision of a specialist interview room.
“The creation of this dedicated unit will speed up investigations. It can be very traumatic for victims to be waiting lengthy periods for a conclusion to their investigation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Supt Tom Myers, who is in charge of policing in North and East Cork, said he is confident that a similar unit will be set up to cover those regions before the end of the year.
Although not as advanced as the plan for West Cork, he said he believed his regions would feature on the next tranche of roll-outs of PSUs to be announced shortly by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
“We hope that the unit may also be up and running by the end of the year,” Chief Supt Myers said.
He added that it would be housed at Fermoy garda station, which is the divisional headquarters for the North and East Cork regions.
The work to provide suitable accommodation for the PSU in Fermoy could be more complicated than Dunmanway as there isn't a lot of space in the station and it has not undergone any significant refurbishment for many years.