Unavailability of judges delays trials, adding to rape trauma, TD claims

RAPE victims waiting years for their cases to be tried in court are having to deal with the added trauma of having them postponed at the last minute, Labour’s Brian O’Shea has claimed.

The TD said the cases had to be postponed at the Central Criminal Court because there was no judge available.

“Vulnerable rape victims should not have to face this prospect as it can only lead to more women losing the resolve to give evidence at the last moment,” he said.

Chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop said the average time rape victims have to wait to have their case tried after reporting the crime was over two years at a time when the recommend time span was just over a year.

Only one in 10 rape victims report the crime, and there was a very high fall-out rate before the cases went to court, where there was a high conviction rate, she pointed out..

“It is totally unacceptable, however, that people who have the courage to endure the waiting process then have to endure the added trauma of having their case postponed,” she said.

“We are not saying that the stages should be fast-forwarded because we support the thoroughness involved in preparing this type of case but we feel it should be a lot faster,” she said.

Mr O’Shea, who has raised the matter with the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, and the chief executive of the Courts Service, Brendan Ryan, blamed the under-resourcing of the courts’ system.

Minister Ahern said 17 additional judges had been appointed in recent years which should have a positive impact on delays throughout the courts’ system.

Mr Ryan said the allocation of business among High Court judges was a matter for the president of the High Court who had assigned four judge to the Central Criminal Court.

He said trial dates were assigned on the basis of four new cases starting each week, where possible, but, on occasion, cases ran for longer than expected, a situation that impacted on cases listed for the following week.

The DRCC has a national 24 hour helpline for victims of rape and sexual abuse 1800 77 88 88.

Family and friends of victims are also welcome to use the service.


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