555. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will request that guidance for juries be developed as a priority to address rape myths ingrained and pre-existing biases, stereotypes and assumptions they may have, whether conscious or unconscious, preferably to be given at the start of a trial but with judicial discretion to repeat it when needed. [37426/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): As the Deputy is aware, Supporting a Victim's Journey is a detailed roadmap for the introduction of all of the recommendations contained in the O'Malley Review which, when implemented, will create a victim-centred approach that protects and supports vulnerable witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.
One of the recommendations under Supporting a Victim's Journey is the development and rollout of training for all personnel that a victim may come into contact with as they navigate the criminal justice system, including An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the legal profession and the judiciary.
In the courtroom setting, it is recommended that all judges presiding over criminal trials for sexual offences and all lawyers appearing in such trials should have specialist training, and that this training should equip them with an understanding of the experience of victims of sexual crime.
The Judicial Council has agreed this training is a priority and it is anticipated it will be completed in 2021. Separately, the Bar of Ireland’s existing Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme incorporates training for barristers dealing with vulnerable witnesses.
It is important to note that Supporting a Victim's Journey has always been classed as a "living" document - one that will evolve as needed. This means that additional recommendations for improving how the criminal system protects and supports vulnerable victims and witnesses can be examined and potentially added.
The issue raised by the Deputy is one of a number of issues that officials in my Department are examining in this regard.