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Question

27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider introducing legislation to ensure that women alleging sexual offences are treated fairly and in accordance with the law and are not the victims of colourful courtroom vernacular demonstrations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49813/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy may be aware, a review of protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences is currently underway. The review will examine the entire legal process around sexual offences, from the initial reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings and is concerned with the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses throughout this process.
Terms of Reference for the review have been published. The review will examine the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and 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; provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during the court processes; measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence; and restrictions on public attendance at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences.
Mr. Tom O’ Malley BL., Senior Lecturer in Law at NUI Galway and member of the Law Reform Commission, has been appointed to chair the working group carrying out the review. He is joined by representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Probation Service, the Courts Service and my own Department.
The working group will have regard to research published in this area, submissions from victims organisations and individuals and will carry out consultations with relevant stakeholders.
It is expected that the review group will provide a final report to me by the end of this year, or at the earliest date thereafter. While the outcome of the review cannot be pre-empted, I look forward to its recommendations which will be given careful consideration.