‘Judges would benefit from training on impact of rape’

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said it is hopeful judges and legal professionals will soon take part in education programmes to help them better understand the consequences of sexual crimes.

Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, the chief executive of the centre, said judges and barristers would benefit from hearing about the effect the crimes had on those who had been raped.

She said the judiciary appeared open to the idea and it would help the process, particularly in light of the latest controversy arising from a senior judge’s comments about the motivations of a rape victim.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said that the organisation had recently met with Chief Justice Susan Denham to discuss the issue and she said it had been positive.

She said she hoped there would be progress in the near future.

In a statement, the Courts Service said the Committee for Judicial Training, chaired by Chief Justice Denham, has provided training for judges on a large number of issues in recent years. And it said organisations have made positive suggestions for future topics to explore.

The comments by Ms O’Malley-Dunlop, came in the wake of the controversy surrounding the sentencing summary given by Mr Justice Barry White in the case of a Clare businessman convicted of rape.

On Monday, Thomas Egan of Cahermurphy, Kilmihil, Clare, was sentenced to seven years in prison, with the final three and half years suspended, for raping a Brazilian woman who he had asked to clean his house.

Mr Justice White earned praise for telling Egan that an offer of compensation could not be used to buy his way out of a prison sentence.

However, the judge was sharply criticised for suggesting that the victim impact statement he read implied that Egan’s victim was more interested in compensation.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the comments did not appreciate the profound psychological trauma experienced by victims and said judges would benefit from education on these issues.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said gardaí had already engaged with similar education programmes and these had gone very well.

She said gardaí had shown a better ability to deal with people who had been raped, and that this had helped improve the notoriously low reporting rates for sex crimes.

“We have seen a better understanding of the effect on individuals and there has been a huge sea change in attitudes,” she said.


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