RAPE Crisis Midwest has broadly welcomed the recommendations of a report which advocates specialist training and a blanket ban on identifying people accused of any kind of sexual offence.
The report was completed following a review into the legal protections offered to complainants in sexual assault cases. The review was carried out by a five-person working group that was chaired by barrister and law lecturer Tom O’Malley.
It was instituted by the previous justice minister Charlie Flanagan following the high-profile Belfast rape trial in 2018. In that trial, Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of rape, as were two others who had been charged with lesser offences.
Midwest Director, Miriam Duffy, told the Limerick Post “we particularly welcome recommendations which advocate special training for judges, barristers and others involved in a trial involving a sexual offence.
“We have been arguing for years for pretrial hearings in these matters, before a jury is involved so that legal points which have to be argued out of hearing of the jury can be ironed out beforehand. Sending juries in and out just prolongs the trial for everybody.”
With legislation on reporting rape trials differing between the Republic and the North, the so-called rugby rape trial meant the players were in the spotlight, but it led to the alleged victim being named on a social media site and her identity becoming widely known.
In Ireland until now, people accused of sex offences other than rape could be named by the media, but that will no longer be the case if the recommendations become law.
Ms Duffy said that “the truth is that ireland is a village and if Paddy so and so is named as having been accused of a rape or a sexual offence, it’s very easy to figure out who the victim is.”
The 140-page O’Malley report makes a large number of recommendations around providing support for victims and the training of legal practitioners, but it does not recommend separate legal representation for victims throughout the entire trial.
Meanwhile, Rape Crisis Midwest has returned to one-on-one counselling at their centre, in line with Covid-19 recommendations.
“We are back in person, but some clients still opt for phone counselling and we are telling everybody not to come in if they are in any way sniffley or sick. We can still support them by phone or other means,” said Ms Duffy
Rape Crisis Midwest can be contacted by freephone 1800 311 511 or at [email protected]