Amendment will help child abuse victims

We, the undersigned, call on Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter and all Oireachtas members to support amending the Courts Bill 2013 to regulate the admission of the counselling notes of the child witness in a sexual violence criminal case.

A current gap in our law means that parents of child abuse victims currently face the devastating and frightening possibility that to seek justice and the protection of other children requires making their child’s intimate counselling notes available for the court case, perhaps to devastating effect in undermining their child.

This process of exposing the child is currently without any formal control or oversight by a judge. This is deeply distressing and unacceptable.

The amendment proposed by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout in the Seanad on Wednesday, Jun 26, is both essential and urgent in the interest of justice and the protection of the child witness in a criminal case of child sexual violence.

It puts a decision about the admissibility of counselling notes in the hands of the judge and sets a standard for the circumstances for when it is proper to disclose them to the accused and/or the defence legal team. Further legislation will be necessary to protect the adult victim of sexual violence in the same manner by making the admission of their counselling notes something that is regulated by a judge under legislation.

Fiona Neary, Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Mary Flaherty, Children at Risk Ireland

Kevin Booth, St Louise’s Unit, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin

Adele Moorhouse, St Clare’s Unit, Children’s University Hospital, Temple St

Ashley Balbirnie, Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Maria Corbett, Children’s Rights Alliance

Catherine Joyce, Barnardos Ireland

Mark Kelly, Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland

Paul Gilligan, Children’s Rights Advocate, Clinical Psychologist

Patrick Burke, Youth Work Ireland

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