The first crime prevention seminar of its type in the country has taken place for deaf people.

It was held at the Cork Deaf Club on MacCurtain St and attended by deaf and hearing impaired people from all over Munster.

It follows on from the round-table research event held last May on “Access to Justice for Deaf Victims of Crime in Ireland”, organised by Gill Harold of UCC’s school of law.

The deaf community requested the seminar which was organised by gardaí from the Cork North Garda Division, headed by Chief Supt Ger Dillane.

“We can learn a lot from the experiences shared by the members of the Irish deaf community who participated in this research,” said Ms Harold.

“One of the most significant findings is the need to improve communication awareness amongst those who assist and support Deaf victims of crime, in order to make their services more accessible.”

Ms Harold, who has been funded by Irish Research Council to explore deaf people’s experiences as victims of crime and their interaction with the criminal justice process, said the event was very worthwhile.

“It was really encouraging to see the language rights of the Irish deaf community being recognised by the gardaí,” she said.

“The event could offer a very useful blueprint for future events in other Garda districts.”

Through the use of a sign language interpreter, Sgt Andrew Geary gave those attending the event advice on home security and personal safety.

He said that two more meetings were planned with Cork Deaf Club in the next six months.

One will focus on the laws surrounding drugs and alcohol and the other will be on road traffic laws.

He said that gardaí might look at appointing liaison officers to deal directly with the deaf community, as they have done with other minority groups.

Graham O’Shea, secretary for the Cork Deaf Club, said they were delighted with the seminar.

“It is very important that the deaf community in Cork stay connected with the gardaí in order to build an awareness of issues, such as safety,” Mr O’Shea said.

The seminar heard about the work being done by Professor Lorraine Leeson of the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College Dublin on the Justisigns Project.

Funded through the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning programme, it is promoting access to justice for deaf sign language users.

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