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Budget to fund reforms of how sex offence cases carried out in wake of Belfast rape trial

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the funding will be used to implement the O'Malley Report Photo: PA

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the funding will be used to implement the O'Malley Report Photo: PA

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the funding will be used to implement the O'Malley Report Photo: PA

SWEEPING reforms on how sexual offences cases are dealt with by Ireland's justice system are to be funded from a package of more than €2m provided in Budget 2021.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the funding will be used to implement the O'Malley Report including support for NGOs that support victims, legal aid, and training for Gardaí, the judiciary and legal profession.

The O'Malley report, which reviewed how vulnerable people are treated during sexual offences prosecutions and trials, was ordered by the Irish government following the high-profile trial on rape charges of two rugby players in Belfast in 2018.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty by a jury of raping a young student at a house party two years ago.

Mr Jackson (26) was also found not guilty of sexually assaulting the then 19-year-old woman.

There was widespread concern that the complainant's experience could deter sexual violence survivors from coming forward.

Among the recommendations of the O'Malley report are that all victims of sexual offences should have the opportunity to receive free legal advice and that anonymity should be granted to those accused of all sexual offences, not just rape.

Ms McEntee said she will outline a plan for the implementation of the report by Tom O'Malley of NUIG next week.

She said it was commissioned by her predecessor as Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to "see how we can improve the journey of a vulnerable person or victim of sexual assault or violence as they go through the system."

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She said more than €2m in funding has been secured for this in the Budget.

Ms McEntee said some of the recommendations of the O'Malley report require funding and others need legislation.

A sum of €300,000 is to be spent on legal aid to specifically support victims of sexual crimes.

Victims are only allowed their own legal representation when the defence in a rape trial is applying to ask them about their sexual history, and they are usually represented by a junior counsel. The report said this right should be extended to victims in sexual assault trials.

It said the Legal Aid Board should make sure the person representing a victim is as senior as the person representing the prosecution and the defence.

Budget funding will also go towards a national awareness campaign on the principle of consent and another campaign on the legally enforceable rights that victims have.

Ms McEntee added: "There will be increased grants for NGOs, those who are supporting victims particularly those who accompany them to court.

"There will be money for training and accreditation and the training in itself will be [for] An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Judiciary, the legal profession."

Ms McEntee said that tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a priority for her.

She said €400,000 in extra funding will go to agencies that support victims of domestic violence "which we know unfortunately... increased in prevalence [during the Covid-19 pandemic]."


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