130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he plans to take to ensure that victims in sexual assault cases are treated fairly throughout proceedings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42730/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Government is committed to ensuring that we have a robust system in place to deal with sexual offences which is sensitive to the needs of vulnerable victims. In this regard I have established a review of the protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences which is under way. The review will examine the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and practice to protect and support victims of sexual violence through the judicial process. This will include considering practical supports for vulnerable witnesses through the reporting, investigation and trial processes; provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during the court processes and measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence, including the use of measures such as pre-recorded evidence or video-link. Any considerations of this nature would, of course, need to take into account the rights of an accused person and the balance of justice.
I have asked Mr. Tom O’ Malley BL., Senior Lecturer in Law at NUI Galway and member of the Law Reform Commission, to chair the review. I am very grateful to Mr O’Malley for agreeing to take on this role and he will bring a wealth of expertise to this issue. The review will form part of the work programme of the Criminal Justice Strategic Committee and the review working group includes representatives of my Department, the Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Probation Service and the Courts Service.
I have asked that the report of the review be made to me by the end of the year or as soon as possible thereafter. The views and experiences of stakeholders will be considered as part of this review and I myself met with a number of victim support organisations earlier this year to understand where they feel improvements can be made. I am committed to taking on board any recommendations arising from the review.