796. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice her views on a campaign (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21286/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I recognise the immense courage of victims in sharing their experiences, both of the abuse they have survived and of their engagement with the criminal justice system. It is something I am very grateful for because it is so important to our understanding of where there are gaps in the system and reforms that need to be advanced. It also shows victims of similar abuse that they are not alone and hopefully encourages others to reach out for support and to report the abuse.
From the information I have on the campaign mentioned by the Deputy, the aims of it, in particular its focus on education and training, on awareness raising and on promoting responsible online behaviour, are to be welcomed.
As the Deputy is aware, 'Coco's Law', which has been enacted as the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, entered into force on 10 February 2021.
Coco’s Law gives An Garda Síochána the tools they need to make sure that those who commit abusive crimes both online and offline can be prosecuted and, if prosecuted and found guilty, our courts now have sentences available to them that reflect the level of harm these crimes cause to their victims. I understand from An Garda Síochána that training on The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act will be covered on level 3 witness training as of the 10th May 2021 in the lesson entitled ‘Victims of Sex Crime’ (delivered by Garda National Protective Services Bureau).
My Department is currently running the No Excuses campaign which aims to increase awareness of sexual harassment and sexual violence in Irish society. Our plan is to incorporate information on Coco’s Law into this campaign in the coming months. This will include a focus on ensuring there is public awareness of the fact that the sharing of intimate images is a form of sexual abuse and one which now carries a significant penalty.
We intend to communicate our message in a way that will build on our existing No Excuses campaign and its key message of not excusing sexual harassment or sexual violence.
This is an important time to increase awareness and educate people about the consequences both legal and psychological of sharing images without consent.
'Supporting a Victims Journey’, which will be implemented as a priority, places a strong emphasis on the need for victims to be treated with dignity and respect at every stage throughout the process and includes the provision of specific training for all of the key personnel a victim comes into contact with during the course of their journey through the criminal justice system. Such personnel includes the Gardaí, the DPP, the judiciary and the legal profession.
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.