Minister James Browne T.D.
Opening Statement on Combatting Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence
Check against Delivery
19 November 2020
I would also like to thank the House for the opportunity to discuss this important topic.
The Department of Justice continues to work on delivering our vision of a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland. An important part of this is our ongoing and intensive efforts to combat Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based violence. We are improving our systems and processes to ensure they protect those at risk, support those that are victims, bring to justice those that inflict harm and create a society that does not tolerate or turn a blind eye to any type of Domestic, Sexual or Gender Based violence.
The Department of Justice is currently midway through a six year, two part, national awareness campaign to tackle domestic and sexual violence.
It is designed to help people identify instances or signs of domestic and sexual violence –and to make us question our acceptance of some unacceptable behaviours and attitudes. It features both male and female victims and the message was spread at national and local level thorough partnerships with local radio stations. This campaign has started important conversations about how at an individual level, and as a society, we have to change our attitudes if we want a country that does not tolerate any form of domestic or sexual violence.
From the outset of the pandemic we prioritised help for victims of domestic abuse. We worked collaboratively with frontline service providers and community groups on the ‘Still Here’ campaign.
We increased funding for organisations offering support to victims to ensure they could continue their valuable work during Covid 19.
We worked with the Gardai, the Courts and the Legal Aid Board, to ensure cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence would be prioritised and this continues to be the case.
I too welcome the recent conviction for coercive control and commend the victim for coming forward. I hope it not only encourages other victims to do likewise, but that it raises awareness that coercive control is abuse and helps people to recognise the signs.
We are planning for the future delivery of services and supports for victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence. The audit of how responsibility is currently fragmented is a key part of this. It will assist in developing proposals for the infrastructure needed to ensure we have a system that deals with all of the relevant issues in the most holistic and effective way possible. The publication of the call for an independent expert to carry out this audit is a major step in delivering this commitment within the timeframe set. The input of the NGOs into the audit will help us design and build our future services around the victims needs in the most comprehensive, compassionate and appropriate way.
I also believe the implementation of Supporting A Victims Journey will also be instrumental. It will create a criminal justice system that supports vulnerable victims and empowers them report offences knowing they will be supported, informed and treated respectfully throughout the criminal justice process. It will improve the way the criminal justice system operates in very real and practical ways to make it work for vulnerable victims at every stage.
The mapping of the victim’s journey and the review of our grants schemes for organisations that work with victims are other important elements that will contribute to how we deliver our services in the future. This work will ensure consistent support service are available for all victims throughout the State.
The National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence is a whole of Government approach. The review of the current strategy which runs from 2016-2012 will inform the third which will prioritise prevention and reduction and will include a National Preventative Strategy. [As Minister McEntee said] It will be agreed by Government before the end of 2021 in line with our Programme for Government Commitment.
To conclude Ceann Comhairle, this Government is fully committed to combatting all forms of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, not only by doing what is required now but also by thoroughly reviewing how we do things to design more efficient and effective structures as we go forward. We are working with the frontline service providers, listening to them and responding to what they are telling us is required.
I am proud of the work the Department of Justice is doing. Ambitious targets have been set that we are on course to deliver because as both Minister McEntee and I have stressed – combatting domestic, sexual and gender based violence is a priority across the board.