Clearer data on sexual violence required to monitor reforms - Pa Daly TD
Following yesterday’s Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing on victim testimony in cases of rape and sexual assault, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Law Reform, Equality and Integration, Pa Daly TD, has called for major reform of how trials are conducted in order to ensure victims are not retraumatised by unfair court processes.
Teachta Daly said:
“Yesterday’s committee session heard many deeply distressing and troubling accounts of how our criminal justice system is failing to support survivors of sexual violence.
“Any victim who bravely comes forward to report a crime must not be subjected to unnecessarily harsh court processes which run the risk of retraumatising them and hampering their right to fair judicial process.
“It is clear that major reform is needed, in order to have a system which meets the needs of victims and is sensitive to the deeply traumatic nature of these crimes.
“In December 2019, Sinn Féin published the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019, which contained provisions to address many of the serious flaws in our current system which were raised in yesterday’s Committee hearing. This includes provisions to protect complainants from having their clothing or their previous sexual history unfairly used against them in cross examination.
“Two and a half years on, the Government has failed to act on this Bill. I would urge the Government to carefully consider Sinn Féin’s proposals or else to introduce their own legislation to the same effect.
“The issues in our criminal justice system are well known, yet the Government has failed to take the steps necessary to bring about the required reform. Victims cannot be expected to keep waiting.
“Another key issue is the lack of adequate, detailed and robust data on sexual violence. In conducting research on the matter and hearing from individuals and groups who do work in the area, it is clear there is a dearth of quality statistics on gender based violence. The O’Malley review here has gone some way towards addressing the discrepancies within the courts.
“However, it is difficult to grasp the full extent of the problem without solid data, and the good work of NGOs such as Women’s Aid and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland has had to fill the gap in many respects. This might be a matter of resources on the part of the state but there are solutions there if the resources are provided and NGOs could be consulted on how to compile such figures.
“The DPP, Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána could publish details of cases taken and crimes reported, in such a manner as to protect anonymity. This would provide greater accountability and go some way to addressing issues around under reporting of these crimes, as well as dispel myths arising from wider misogyny in society.
“We must ensure that victims are treated sensitively and fairly when they report a crime. I am committed to working with the Government on this to ensure that the necessary change is finally enacted."