New laws, frontline training and awareness campaigns to tackle sexual crimes are promised between now and the end of the year, under a Department of Justice plan.
The Justice Plan 2021 also envisages a pilot project and supporting programmes in a bid to set up a new structure at local level to improve community safety.
The Policing and Community Safety Bill – a fundamental part of the changes recommended by 2018 Policing Commission report – is now due to be published by the end of this year, some two years later than scheduled under a previous Government report.
The Justice Plan 2021 sets out 250 actions covering everything from Garda reform, to legal costs, to tackling crime and immigration.
In relation to sexual offences, the plan details a host of measures it says will be done before the close of this year. Over the four quarters, these include:
- Improved monitoring of sex offenders under the Sex Offender Amendment Bill (Quarter 2);
- Fully implementing EU Victims of Crime directive and enhanced support for victims of sexual offences as set out in the O’Malley report into protection of witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sex offences (ongoing);
- New laws on “reasonable belief” in consent in the Sexual Offences Bill which will deliver reforms on legislation arising from both the O’Malley report and the Law Reform Commission (Q4);
- Development of specialist training for gardaí, legal professionals and others involved in investigations and trials (Q4);
- New scheme of “intermediaries” for victims of sexual offences, including training for professionals who could perform this role (Q4);
- New laws to expand access to free legal aid for victims of sexual offences (Q4);
- Launch public awareness campaign for third-level on meaning of consent (Q2) and one for the general public (Q4)
On what is considered one of the key planks of Garda reform and protection of communities, the Heads of the Policing and Community Safety Bill is due to be completed by end of March, with the full Bill published by the end of the year.
This is a full two years behind the schedule laid out in the Future of Policing in Ireland plan (December 2018), the Government’s implementation document for the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
The plan also says a review of the Garda role in prosecution (which the policing commission recommended disengagement from) will publish an interim report by Q1 and a final report by Q4.
The plan states that draft legislation on body cameras by gardaí will be published by Q3.
On community safety structures, the plan promises the establishment of a pilot Local Community Safety Partnership (LCSP) in Dublin's north inner city, followed by similar pilots in Waterford and Longford by Q2.
They will have an independent chair and be independently evaluated by the end of the year.
Areas affected by organised crime, gangs and disadvantage will be assisted by reports conducted into Drogheda, Co Louth, and Darndale, north Dublin.