795. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice the training provided to An Garda Síochána and employees of the Courts Service in dealing with victims of sexual abuse and violence including physical, psychological and online abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21285/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): 'Supporting a Victims Journey’ which is being implemented as a priority, includes the provision of specific training for all of the key personnel a victim comes into contact with during the course of their journey throughout the criminal justice system.
To deliver on this objective, a sub-group has been tasked with; identifying gaps in the current provision and recommending measures to address same, ascertaining the types of training that is needed, and designing a framework for its delivery. In the coming weeks we will be advertising for expressions of interest from consultants who can work with us to analyse existing training provision and identify where the gaps are. This is the first step in putting additional training provisions in place to meet unmet needs.
The Deputy will be aware that, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including personnel or human resources matters, such as arranging training courses for Garda members.
To be of assistance, I have contacted the Garda Commissioner in respect of the information sought by the Deputy.
I am informed that currently there is a wide variety of training being provided to all Gardaí in respect of vulnerable victims including;
- Core training for all members of An Garda Síochána on domestic violence, including a module on the Domestic Violence Act, 2018, including specific training and awareness on coercive control.
- Comprehensive e-learning course on victim engagement, which will cover the rights of every victim of crime, with a particular focus on the needs of victims of sexual crimes and the special measures and protections that can be offered to them during investigations and court proceedings.
- New and enhanced Domestic Abuse e-learning training.
- In response to Covid19, Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) are in the process of designing a comprehensive e-learning course on victim engagement, which will cover the rights of every victim of crime, with particular focus on the needs of vulnerable victims, such as victims of sexual crimes and the special measures and protections that can be offered to them during investigations and court proceedings.
- As part of the BA in Applied Policing Training Programme; Trainee Gardaí are trained as First Responders to deal with incidents and engage with witnesses and victims of assault, rape and sexual assault as reported to members of An Garda Síochána and participate in a Domestic Violence workshop on Domestic Violence Legislation and related Policy. All probationer Gardaí complete Children First Training which covers the Children First Act 2015 and Children First National Guidance for Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 and examines the responsibilities of members of An Garda Síochána in the area of Child Abuse Investigations.
- Training in dealing with victims with more substantial victim liaison, delivered via a Family Liaison Officer (FLO). All FLOs receive considerable training in victim engagement and liaison.
- The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act will be covered on level 3 witness training as of the 10 th May 2021 in the lesson entitled ‘Victims of Sex Crime’ (delivered by GNPSB).
- The Garda Síochána Interviewing Model (GSIM) for Investigative Interviewing is a tiered system of training and each level contains training at an appropriate level. Advanced Investigative Interviewing lectures cover topic areas such as domestic abuse and coercive control, victims of sex crime and vulnerability and trauma narratives.
- Additionally, as part of the specialist interview course, training is provided to members of An Garda Síochána in dealing with victims and witnesses under the age of 18 and people with intellectual disabilities, who are alleging crimes of sexual abuse and violence including physical, psychological and online abuse.
- The training that is provided as part of the investigative interviewing courses aims to ensure that members are trained from an investigative Interviewing perspective to deal with victims of sexual abuse and violence including physical, psychological and online abuse.
- The Divisional Protective Service Units, which have recently been formed in all Garda Divisions nationwide, specialise in the investigation of sexual crimes. Personnel attached to these units have received training on sexual crime, domestic abuse, online child exploitation, child protection and victim rights and engagement.
- Currently the University of Limerick is providing a bespoke online course on human rights, which contains modules on victims of crime and vulnerable witnesses and is being undertaken by Garda personnel.
- With regard to victims of Online Child Exploitation, the training given to Garda personnel attached to Divisional Protective Services Units contains procedures on how to advise and deal with victims of this abuse. The training with regard to dealing on a face-to-face basis with children who are victims of this crime is primarily delivered through the Specialist Victim Interviewing.
- The Garda National Protective Services Bureau, through its dedicated Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit (HTICU), provides specific human trafficking training as part of the core curriculum to all trainee Garda during their formation in the Garda College. This training includes victim identification, awareness and procedure, specific to offences of a sexual exploitation and sexually violent nature.
- HTICU personnel also participate in continuous professional development courses specific to victims of sexual exploitation and sexual violence and receive specialist training on an on-going basis from Europol, Interpol, CEPOL, the European Commission, the US State Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. This includes the provision of information on the administration and business of the Courts Service.
With regard to the specific information sought and to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made enquiries with the Courts Service.
I am informed that under the Modernisation Programme, the courts service have recently finished a pilot course for Trauma Informed Practice. This course focuses on staff awareness of how trauma can affect those who engage with the services of the courts. It is expected that this training will be rolled out to all staff in due course.
In addition, staff who perform the role of Video Link Assistants are undertaking training in the area of Child Protection.
The Courts Service is keenly aware of its obligations under the Victims of Crime Act 2017, and a number of information sessions were provided to staff in relation to this.