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 Header Item Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton] The Government has also agreed that this decision can be reviewed in the years ahead.

To further consider Irish victims now would undoubtedly delay ratification of the convention and the Minister would prefer to move ahead at this point. Once ratification has been completed, Ireland will become part of the Istanbul Convention peer evaluation process, as I said earlier, known as GREVIO. This will be an important learning tool for Ireland and it will put us in a stronger position to know how this issue could be addressed in the future.

Deputy Sherlock asked about a risk assessment matrix and 24-hour helplines and so on. That is to do with the domestic violence legislation and not this particular item but I will try to get responses to the Deputy on those matters.

Deputy O'Loughlin also spoke about the Domestic Violence Act. All the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act were fully commenced on 1 January. Prior to commencement, the key agencies, namely, the Courts Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions and An Garda Síochána, worked hard to put in place the necessary measures, including the preparation of guidance documents and appropriate training, to ensure the successful implementation of the legislation. It is also intended to establish divisional protective services units in each Garda division by the end of this year. These are specialised units which improve services to victims, improve the investigation of incidents of sexual and domestic violence and will improve the identification and management of risk in cases of domestic and sexual violence.

Deputy Sherlock raised an interesting point in asking if Brexit will affect the legislation. It is our understanding that it will not. The UK also plans to ratify the Istanbul Convention although I understand it is a little behind Ireland at this time in terms of ratification. As has been said by Deputies Sherlock and Pringle, this is a Council of Europe convention, not an EU convention, and the UK is not leaving the Council of Europe. Both Deputies strongly made that point.

Deputy O'Callaghan referred to other actions the Government is taking and I mentioned the Garda National Protective Services Bureau which has been established and is led by a chief superintendent. A nationwide network of Garda victim support offices with dedicated staff in each of the 28 Garda divisions has also been established. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau is tasked with improving services to victims, improving the investigation of incidents of sexual and domestic violence and identifying and managing risk.

There is also a domestic homicide review. An Garda Síochána's domestic violence policy intervention unit is currently working with the Garda Síochána Analysis Service in analysing domestic related homicides. Such homicides are examined and any lessons learned are feeding into policy and investigations in this area.

The Minister brought a memorandum to Government on 20 November and the Cabinet approved the undertaking of a national survey, as Deputy Ó Laoghaire pointed out, on the prevalence of sexual violence to be repeated every decade by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, and the publication of the report of the scoping group. The survey will be large scale, complex and extremely sensitive. A completed sample of 5,000 adults, on a wide range of intimate questions on abuse in adult life and in childhood is envisaged. My colleagues can imagine how challenging that will be.

Once the first full national survey is complete, it is envisaged that work will then begin on exploring the experiences of sexual violence abuse by specified vulnerable minority cohorts, for instance the LGBTI+ community, members of the Traveller community, migrant populations and people with disabilities. A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Justice and Equality and the CSO to proceed with this project is currently in preparation.

On the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, the Minister for Justice and Equality published terms of reference for the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences on 7 September. The Minister also announced that Mr. Tom O'Malley, BL, will chair the working group tasked with undertaking it.

Cosc is currently supporting and overseeing the implementation of a uniform national domestic violence intervention programme under the second national strategy for the prevention of domestic sexual and gender-based violence for the period 2016 to 2021. The roll-out of this programme, entitled the Choices programme, began in 2017.

Funding and resources have been mentioned on a few occasions. Under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual or gender-based violence. As such, Tusla is the primary funder of services. In 2018, Tusla allocated funding of €23.8 million to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services, an increase of €3.4 million or 17% over 2015. Following budget 2019, additional funding of €1.5 million will be allocated to these services in 2019.

Of the €1.72 million allocated to victims of crime in 2018, grants totalling €686,000 were awarded to 34 domestic violence organisations for support and assistance and to provide support and court accompaniment to victims of crime. Of the €2.205 million non-pay budget for Cosc, it allocated €950,000 for the national awareness programme, "What would you do?". In 2018, the campaign messaging moved from an objective of raising awareness to one of education. Additionally, €500,000 from the Dormant Accounts Fund, which has been provided under the dormant accounts plan for 2016 and 2017 is being used to provide key additional localisation to the national campaign over its lifetime.

Cosc also allocated €817,000 for the delivery of the uniform national domestic abuse intervention programme entitled the Choices programme. The primary aim of the programme is, while maintaining its support for the safety and well-being of women and children as paramount, to support and challenge men who are engaged in domestic violence to change their abusive behaviours and attitudes towards their partners.

Cosc also provided funding of €22,000 in 2018 to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for a sexual violence awareness and prevention programme for young people. This funding went towards the running of five four-day body right programme training events in 2018 for staff from Youthreach and other alternative educational settings.

My colleagues can see that there is a lot going on in this hugely important area. One can never really do enough in this challenging area and I was taken again with what Deputy O'Callaghan said earlier, and he said it previously at a different debate on a similar issue, that we are changing in our society. We have much more access to material on the Internet which is, really and truly, not suitable for young people at all and which gives images which are completely wrong and at variance with reality. We have seen more and more reports of the amount of time people spend on screens to the detriment of exercise and other more healthy activities. That is something all of us must reflect on and, in particular, parents will need to reflect on that to ensure that is the case.

I thank my colleagues here for their support this evening and for a constructive debate. This is a sensitive and important area. I look forward to the committee debate hopefully next week, if we agree to progress the Bill this evening, as I anticipate we will. I look forward to ratifying this convention by International Women's Day, as I outlined earlier.

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Justice and Equality pursuant to Standing Orders 84A(3)(a) and 149(1).

  Question put and agreed to.

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