Minister Flanagan publishes Terms of Reference for review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences
Tom O’Malley BL to chair working group undertaking review
7 September 2018
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today published Terms of Reference for the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences. The Minister also announced that Tom O’Malley BL will chair the working group tasked with undertaking it.
The Minister said: “Following a period of preparatory work, including consultations with stakeholders, I am today publishing the Terms of Reference for the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences and announcing the establishment of the working group. This review represents an important step in ensuring that victims of sexual violence will not be further traumatised by the trial process, and that perpetrators of such serious crimes can be held to account. I am very grateful to Tom O’Malley for agreeing to chair the review and he will bring a wealth of expertise to this issue.”
The Terms of Reference outline the elements of the trial process for sexual offences which will be considered under the review. They were drawn up following consultation with stakeholder groups to identify their main concerns within current practice and procedure for investigations and prosecution of sexual offences, from the point of view of victims. The working group has been asked to have particular regard to published reports by expert bodies including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
The Terms of Reference for the review include the following elements:
- Access to specialist training for An Garda Síochána, members of the judiciary and legal professionals dealing with sexual offences;
- Practical supports for victims through the reporting, investigation and trial processes;
- The provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during the court process;
- Examination of measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence, including the use of measures such as pre-recorded evidence or video-link;
- The causes of delay in sexual offence trials, and the effect of delay upon vulnerable witnesses;
- The use of pre-trial hearings to determine evidential issues including conflicts of evidence and sexual experience evidence;
- Provision for restrictions on public attendance at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences.
The Minister also confirmed that the Criminal Justice Strategic Committee has established a working group tasked with completing the review. It will be comprised of experts from relevant areas including the Courts Service, Probation Service, An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr. Tom O’Malley BL, Senior Lecturer in Law at NUI Galway and a member of the Law Reform Commission, has been appointed to chair the group.
The Minister added: “I am confident that the working group of the Criminal Justice Strategic Committee, under the guidance of such an experienced individual as Tom O’Malley, will provide a valuable contribution to our efforts to improve services and supports for victims of sexual abuse. I have asked for practical recommendations that I can act on without delay”.
The Minister has requested an interim report at 3 months, and a final report by 31 December 2018 or at the earliest date thereafter.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences
The review flows from concerns expressed for the protections offered to victims in sexual offence trials, following media coverage of a high-profile rape trial held in Belfast.
The Minister has conducted consultations with major stakeholder groups to identify their main concerns for victims within current practice and procedure for investigations and prosecution of sexual offences. Officials have also considered published reports and written submissions by advocacy groups.
The Criminal Justice Strategic Committee (CJSC) is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality and brings together the heads of An Garda Síochána, Courts Service, Irish Prison Service, Policing Authority, Probation Service, Legal Aid Board, Forensic Science Ireland and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Committee forms working groups to address specific issues. The group will also invite representatives of victims’ advocacy groups, members of the legal profession or academics to participate in discussions and input their perspectives.
The working group will have regard to the key areas of consideration and may consider written submissions and published reports, and any other information relevant to their work.
At the end of the review process, the working group will report to the CJSC. This report will set out the findings of the working group, and make recommendations to the Minister for further actions. The Minister has requested an interim report at 3 months, and a final report by 31 December 2018 or at the earliest date thereafter.
The full text of the Terms of Reference:
Review of protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences
Terms of Reference
- To review the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and practice relating to protect vulnerable witnesses the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, including in particular:
- access to specialist training for An Garda Síochána, members of the judiciary and legal professionals dealing with sexual offences;
• practical supports for vulnerable witnesses through the reporting, investigation and trial processes;
- provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during the court processes;
• measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence, including the use of measures such as pre-recorded evidence or video-link;
• the causes of delay in sexual offence trials, and the effect of delay upon vulnerable witnesses;
• the use of pre-trial hearings to determine evidential issues including conflicts of evidence and sexual experience evidence;
• provision for restrictions on public attendance at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences, and;
- such other relevant issues that may arise during the course of the review process.
- The review group shall, in particular, have regard to the recommendations of the publications by the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland entitled ‘Hearing Every Voice – Towards a New Strategy on Vulnerable Witnesses in Legal Proceedings.’
- The review group shall make recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality no later than 31 December 2018 or at the earliest date thereafter. The Minister will be provided with an interim report after 3 months.
Tom O’Malley – Biography
Tom O'Malley is a Senior Lecturer in Law, a member of the Irish Law Reform Commission and a practising barrister specialising in judicial review. He holds three first-class honours degrees from NUI Galway (B.A. in Latin and French, M.A. in Classics and LL.B.) as well as the LL.M. degree from Yale University. He was a graduate fellow at Yale Law School in 1986-1987 and since then has taught at NUI Galway. In 1992-1993, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Criminology Centre at Oxford University, and in spring 2012 a Visiting Professor of Criminology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He has also taught at the Law Faculty of Paris V University, and has delivered dozens of guest lectures and presentations in Ireland, Britain and continental Europe.
He has taught many different law subjects over the past 25 years including Constitutional Law, Contract, Land Law, Equity, Criminal Law, Criminology, Administrative Law and Evidence. His main research interests are in the area of criminal law and criminal justice and he is the author of leading Irish treatises on sex offences, sentencing and criminal procedure. He has served on several committees and working groups at national and international level and is at present a member of the Steering Committee for the Irish Sentencing Information System. He is currently completing a new edition of Sexual Offences: Law Policy and Punishment which was first published in 1996 and is also working on casebook entitled A Common Law of Sentencing.