Attack victim speaks of feeling let down by justice system

A YOUNG woman who says she was raped at the age of 14 has spoken out against a justice system which she feels utterly let her down after her attacker walked free.

The woman, now 17, said she wishes she had never spoken out about what happened to her.

Last week her attacker was given a suspended sentence after the DPP dropped an initial charge of sexual assault and downgraded it to defilement of an underage girl.

The girl said her life has become a living nightmare as she lives near the man in a small town. She said she feels utterly let down by the state and did not understand why the man had got off so lightly. She said she did not blame the gardaí, but the justice system, adding that it took a year for the DPP to make a decision on the charges.

Ellen O’Malley Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said while the number of victims reporting heinous crimes has increased, the numbers were not translating to the criminal justice system.

“Part of the reason is that victims of crime and their needs are not at the heart of the justice system,” she said.

“At the heart of our justice system is the right to a fair trial. However this is interpreted in practice as a fair trial for the accused. Until the victim is afforded similar status as the accused in the criminal justice process, we will not have ‘fair trials’,” she said.

“We need to ensure that after reporting these crimes, victims will stay the course of the justice process and more perpetrators will be brought to justice. Because so many victims fall out of the criminal justice process the conviction rate is only 7% of reported crimes. This does not help to deter perpetrators from re-offending.”

Ms O’Malley Dunlop, however, welcomed the Government’s commitment to including the victim and putting their needs at the heart of the justice process.

She said unfortunately crimes of a sexual nature were increasing, and pointed out that despite the welcome addition of two new Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) in Mullingar and Galway over the past 18 months, the number of victims attending to the SATU in the Rotunda had also increased.

* Freephone the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 778888.

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