UN to examine Ireland’s record in area of sexual violence

Ireland’s slow progress in protecting victims of sexual violence will be raised at a United Nations’ hearing in Geneva this week.

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone, and Noeline Blackwell, CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Picture: RollingNews.ie

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) is concerned about the slow roll out of Garda Protective Services Units specialising in investigating sexual crimes.

Just four of the units, long promised for each of An Garda Síochána’s 28 divisions, were established on a pilot basis last month — two in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Dundalk, Co Louth.

DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell said gardaí recognised as far back as 2013 the need for trained expert sexual crime investigators.

She said the units were essential for dealing with sexual violence because it was an intimate crime.

“The specialist units are needed throughout the country, so victims of sexual violence know they are going to get a consistent expert service from the justice system,” she said.

This week, Ireland will be examined by the UN Committee Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In its submission to the committee, the DRCC will criticise the lack of special protection for victims in court and the absence of sufficient training for lawyers and law enforcement.

“The legal system should take special care of the victims of sexual violence,” said Ms Blackwell. “They are almost unique in the justice system because they have two roles; they are the victim of the crime and the main person to give evidence in most cases.”

Ms Blackwell said it was crucial that the Victims of Crime Bill and the Domestic Violence Bill are passed into law without delay because both were needed to protect very vulnerable people.

“The justice system is one of the best ways we have of ensuring that sexual violence is reduced because you are holding people to account,” she said.

The DRCC’s report highlights a lack of reliable data about sexual offences in Ireland with the UN committee.

“If the data isn’t reliable and comprehensive, how can the State know that it’s taking the right actions to reduce and prevent sexual crime,” Ms Blackwell asked.

Frances Fitzgerald, Tánaiste and former justice minister, recognised a new study on sexual offences was needed and looked at ways of paying for it.

Ms Blackwell wants an in-depth study, similar to the national Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland published in 2002.

“Ireland has gone through so much in the last 15 years,” she said. “Everything has changed, and the internet has been a big driver of that change.”

Ireland’s examination by the UN committee takes place on Thursday and Friday this week.

The government delegation will be led by the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton.

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