News Irish News

Monday 20 November 2017

Rape victims to be told why attacker wasn't charged


VICTIMS of rape and other serious sexual assaults should soon be able to ask the DPP the reasons why a prosecution has not taken place, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said yesterday.

And new laws being prepared will allow the media for the first time to cover, with strict restrictions, family law cases.

Mr Shatter also said a referendum is expected to take place next autumn on reform of Article 34 of the Constitution, which will allow the setting up of a family courts system to hear family law disputes, including domestic violence and childcare cases.

Mr Shatter, in a wide ranging address to a conference in Dublin on sexual and domestic violence organised by the Law Society and the Bar Council, said he had secured approval for Ireland to opt in to an EU directive setting minimum standards on the rights, protection and support of the victims of crime.

Another measure that Ireland would participate in is aimed to ensure that a victim who obtained a protection measure -- such as a safety or barring order -- can have it extended to other EU states.

"So if the victim moves to another member state, he or she can be confident that protection conferred by that order can easily be recognised in that member state. This sends an important signal that domestic violence, harassment and intimidation are unacceptable throughout the EU."

Mr Shatter also spoke of the pilot "reasons" scheme by the DPP's office where the DPP will, on request by the victim's family, legal representatives or social workers , give reasons for a decision not to prosecute in an alleged offence where a death has occurred.

"I would hope that the scheme would be extended in due course to victims of rape and other serious sexual assault," he said.

He also promised more supervision and monitoring of high-risk sex offenders released from prison, involving the gardai and the Probation Service to protect the public and reduce the risk of re-offending.

As part of a wide-ranging review of the law on sex offences, new legislation would reform the law on incest and amend the Sex Offenders Act 2001 to enhance risk assessment and notification requirements.

Mr Shatter also referred to changes to domestic violence legislation where same sex cohabiting couples can now avail of protections, as well as an applicant who has a child in common with another person can apply for a safety order even if the couple have never lived together. He referred to the "in camera" rule in family law and childcare cases, which does not allow the media to report on them.

Mr Shatter said the side affect of this rule has meant that not only are family cases not generally reported but also that the general public, including legislators, are not aware of how the law is being applied in different courts, particularly the District Courts.

He said he was preparing legislation which would make court proceedings in family law cases more transparent.

"The intended legislation will allow media access to the courts in family and childcare proceedings subject to a strict prohibition on the publication of any material which would lead to the identification of parties or any children involved and care will be taken to ensure that the best interests of children are protected."

Sunday Independent

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