26. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the roll out of the new specially trained Garda units to handle cases involving vulnerable witnesses, such as, child abuse and sexual crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49600/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The establishment by the Garda Commissioner of Divisional Protective Services Units are one of the actions outlined in the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The strategy, which is a commitment under the Programme for Partnership Government, is a whole of Government approach, involving seven Government Departments and a number of State bodies, including Tusla and An Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy is aware, another key element of this strategy was the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in May of this year which improves the protections available to victims of domestic violence, most critically for those victims in crisis situations and is also intended to make the court process easier for victims of domestic violence.
Under the existing Garda reform programme, divisional units of Garda National Protective Services Bureau are being rolled-out in two phases. The Bureau is tasked with improving services to victims, improving the investigation of sexual and domestic violence incidents, and identifying and managing risk.
Phase One of this rollout is completed, with Divisional Units established in three areas - DMR West, Cork City, and Louth Division.
I welcome Commissioner Harris’ comments last week, at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 2017 Annual Report, regarding his commitment to the continued roll out of the Divisional Protective Services Units.
Following an evaluation of the pilot, the next phase will see an additional six Divisional Bureaus established in DMR South Central; Waterford; Kerry; Kilkenny/Carlow; Limerick and Galway Garda Divisions before the end of Q4, 2018 with the objective of extending them to all remaining Garda Divisions before the end of 2019. I understand that this objective is on track.
I am informed by the Commissioner that this initiative is being managed collaboratively between the Garda National Protective Services Bureau and each Divisional Officer.