Minister 'not in a position' to meet rape campaigner
A young woman who waived her right to anonymity in a bid to improve the rights of rape victims has told how the Justice Minister took seven months to respond to her emails - even after she sent an "extremely personal" letter.
Amy Gilligan (28), originally from Athlone, this year spoke out about her terrifying ordeal as an 11-year-old.
She was raped by a teenage boy whose mother was babysitting her on May 9, 2001.
Andrew Cox, also from Athlone, was only a few weeks past his 16th birthday when he assaulted the young girl in his bedroom.
He pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in 2003 and was sentenced to five years in prison, with the last two suspended.
Seventeen years after she was raped, Amy decided to waive her right to anonymity after her attacker sought to be removed from the Sex Offenders Register.
Gardaí didn't inform Amy about Cox's application and she only found out through word of mouth.
She never knew that convicted sex offenders could seek removal from the register and was shocked to learn victims don't have to be notified.
In May this year, she wrote to the Department of Justice to request a meeting with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
She received no response for seven months and only last week, after the department was contacted by the Irish Independent, did she get a personal reply.
She was informed that the minister "regrets he is not in a position to meet you".
Amy has been campaigning for the 2001 Sex Offenders Act to be amended.
"What happened to me might be a minor thing for the Government, but it's a major thing for people like me who have gone through a sexual assault," she said. "For a lot of victims, the register is their safety net as they know that person is being monitored."
Amy received a response on December 19 saying the "minister is sorry to hear of your experience. He wishes to apologise that you have not received a response sooner.
"... The minister would like to thank you for your courage in sharing your story. The minister regrets that he is not in a position to meet with you."
A department spokesperson said the minister is "fully conscious of the vulnerable position of victims of crime, particularly victims of sexual violence".
"In that regard, the minister has asked that the issue raised be considered by the working group examining protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences
"There are a number of ongoing legislative initiatives in this area," they added.
If you have been affected by the above issues you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 8888.