Rape crisis centres, women’s groups and the Policing Authority have welcomed the establishment of four divisional specialist units to investigate domestic, sexual and child abuse.
The Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs) are being piloted in Cabra and Clondalkin in North and West Dublin, Angelsea Street in Cork city and Dundalk, Co Louth.
The regional units were recommended by the Garda Inspectorate in November 2015 and their launch yesterday followed concerns from the Policing Authority at the delays in setting them up.
“Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has waited for these units for a long time,” said chief executive Noeline Blackwell.
She said trained and well-informed gardaí are needed to effectively combat sexual, domestic and gender-based violence.
“We need victims to be confident that if they work up the courage to report, their cases will be investigated in a consistently high-quality manner.”
Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre said: “The centre has been advocating for many years for a specialist unit which would investigate sexual crimes. The expertise should result in better investigations and prosecutions. I look forward to working with Detective Inspector Eileen Foster and her team.”
Maeve Lewis of One in Four said: “We believe that the specialist training provided to gardaí in the DPSUs will improve the experience of survivors of child sex abuse in engaging with the gardaí, and hopefully will encourage more people to come forward.”
She said the units will ensure that the gardaí investigating will have the “knowledge and skills that these complex cases require”.
Orla O’Connor, director of National Women’s Council of Ireland, said the units will support women in reporting domestic and sexual violence and increase their confidence in the gardaí.
“We know from women throughout the country how difficult it is to report domestic, physical and sexual violence and the new divisional units are a significant positive step forward to changing that experience.”
Gardaí said there will be up to 15 personnel attached to each of the four units. The DSPUs are due to be expanded across the remaining 25 Garda divisions from the beginning of next year.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said: “People who are victims of a range of crimes, including sexual, domestic or child abuse, prostitution and human trafficking can expect a more professional and consistent service from the gardaí. Equally our response to the investigation of missing persons, children who are missing and sex offenders will be enhanced.”
The Policing Authority had in its April report to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald expressed concern at the “delays” in the pilots, saying the the roll-out had “not proceeded as hoped”. It said that nine units were initially supposed to be piloted.
In a statement yesterday, the authority said it is “very encouraging” to see the announcement. It said the units and collaboration with the Tusla will allow for a “thorough investigation” of the crimes and professional support for victims.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved