1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the review into the conduct of rape trials that he announced in June 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49980/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The review is at an advanced stage and nearing completion. It is vitally important that victims of sexual assault feel able to report matters to An Garda Síochána. It is equally important that complainants in sexual assault cases are spared any unnecessary distress in the investigation and prosecution of such offences and cases.
As Deputy O'Callaghan noted, a review of protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences is well under way. The review will examine the entire legal process surrounding sexual offences, from the initial reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings. The review concerns in particular the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses throughout this process.
Terms of reference for the review have been published. The review is examining the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and in practice to protect vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, including access to specialist training for An Garda Síochána, members of the Judiciary and legal professionals dealing with sexual offences; practical supports for vulnerable witnesses; the provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during court processes; measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence; and restrictions on attendance by members of the public at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences.
The working group is having regard to research published in this area, submissions from victims' organisations, representatives of which I have met, and individuals and will carry out consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the legal professional bodies.
The impetus for this review arose from a round of consultations I had with non-governmental organisations, NGOs, in April of this year. I met representatives of NGOs, including Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and the National Women's Council of Ireland and I acknowledge their submissions and their assistance on this matter.