Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release

RCNI call for all party support to protect child victims of sexual violence from unnecessary and potentially devastating harm in our courts.

As a long time advocate of victims’ rights, RCNI calls on Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, TD, to include the proposed amendment to the Courts Bill proposed by Senator Van Turnhout, before the Seanad today (Weds 26th June 2013) which will give our judges urgently needed powers to regulate the disclosure of counselling notes relating to child victims.

Fiona Neary RCNI Director said, ‘The Van Turnhout amendment is both essential and urgent in the interest of justice and the protection of the child witness in a criminal case of child sexual violence.

‘Devastating and unacceptable choices are being forced on parents of children in cases of sexual violence by an accidental gap in our law which exposes vulnerable children to potential trauma in our court rooms.

‘Parents are currently faced with the frightening possibility that to seek justice and the protection of other children requires making their child’s intimate counselling notes available for the court case, perhaps to devastating effect in undermining their child. This decision to expose the child is currently without any formal control or oversight by a judge. This is entirely unacceptable. It must be the case that only a judge makes this decision. It is unnecessary to put children and their parents through this further trauma.

‘Minister Alan Shatter now has an opportunity, through the amendment to the Courts Bill, proposed in the Seanad today (Weds 26th 2013) by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout, to fix this distressing and unjust situation for the children who have experienced sexual violence and their families.’

Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘It is the RCNI contention that the decision on the admissibility of the child’s counselling notes in a particular case should only be made by a judge to a set of standards defined by law. This amendment means that a judge may decide the counselling notes are of no probative value, that other evidence could prove a contested fact, that the public interest in disclosure does not outweigh the potential harm to the complainant and therefore they are not to be given to the accused and/or the defence legal team. This amendment is to ensure that the counselling notes of child sexual victims who give evidence as children would only become part of the trial if the judge makes a decision on their admissibility. It is our strong belief that justice should do all that it can to protect the child victim from unnecessary potential harm in the pursuit of justice.

‘The existing gap in our law can result in grave injustice and additional trauma to survivors. This amendment will close this gap in our legislation as far as child victims of sexual crime are concerned. This legislative change will help ensure that there is public confidence that the State will do its utmost to vindicate victims of crimes of sexual violence.

‘RCNI have been working with survivors, services, Government agencies and legislators, including Senator Van Turnhout, on this question for an extended period of time. RCNI have also been looking at legislative provisions from other jurisdictions, such as New South Wales, as possible models which could be adapted to suit our criminal justice system. We have been pooling our experience and the experiences of clients and the parents of child clients across the country over a number of years. We very much welcome this timely amendment as a first and urgent step in addressing this gap in our law.’

Fiona Neary concluded, ‘We commend Senator Jillian Van Turnhout for proposing this clause in the latest Courts Bill and call on all Deputies and all Parties of the Oireachtas to commit to ensuring its swift passage to enactment. Further, RCNI calls on Minister Shatter to introduce new legislation to ensure that our judges have the power to regulate disclosure of all victims’ intimate personal records, as a matter of urgency.’

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For information
Clíona Saidléar
087 2196447

Group Letter: Protecting Child Abuse Victims in Justice System

A chara,

We, the undersigned, call on Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter, TD and all Oireachtas members to support amending the Courts Bill 2013 to regulate the admission of the counselling notes of the child witness in a sexual violence criminal case.

A current gap in our law means that parents of child abuse victims currently face the devastating and frightening possibility that to seek justice and the protection of other children requires making their child’s intimate counselling notes available for the court case, perhaps to devastating effect in undermining their child. This process of exposing the child is currently without any formal control or oversight by a judge. This is deeply distressing and unacceptable.

The amendment proposed by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout in the Seanad on Wednesday the 26th June is both essential and urgent in the interest of justice and the protection of the child witness in a criminal case of child sexual violence. It puts a decision about the admissibility of counselling notes in the hands of the judge and sets a standard for the circumstances for when it is proper to disclose them to the accused and/or the defence legal team. Further legislation will be necessary to protect the adult victim of sexual violence in the same manner by making the admission of their counselling notes something that is regulated by a judge under legislation.

Sincerely

Fiona Neary, Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Mary Flaherty, Children at Risk Ireland

Kevin Booth, St Louise’s Unit, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin

Adele Moorhouse, St Clare’s Unit, Children’s University Hospital, Temple St

Ashley Balbirnie, Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Maria Corbett, Children’s Rights Alliance

Catherine Joyce, Barnardos Ireland

Mark Kelly, Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland

Paul Gilligan, Children’s Rights Advocate, Clinical Psychologist

Patrick Burke, Youth Work Ireland

RCNI Launch Governance Resource Pack for Rape Crisis Centre Board Members

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) are delighted to announce that Ms Norah Gibbons, Chair Designate of the Child & Family Agency, today in Galway launched, The Rape Crisis Centre Governance Resource Pack, a new training resource which has been rolled out for Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) Board Members nationwide.

Speaking at the launch, Ms Gibbons said, ‘this guide to governance informs and assists board members to be clear about their roles and responsibilities and to be effective leaders. It is a vital tool for existing board members and no doubt will  be a key component of  the introductory pack for new board members in the future. Vigilance with regard to all aspects of governance is essential for all organisations and I applaud the RCNI for making this readable guide available.’

RCNI spokesperson said; ‘RCCs exist to create a better world. We operate to effect the prevention of sexual violence and to meet the needs of survivors in difficult and demanding conditions. Clear and accountable governance has always been vital to the successes and sustainability of the rape crisis sector.’

‘A strategic aim of RCNI as the representative body of Irish RCCs is to support member RCCs to adopt and maintain best practice, including in governance, to help keep pace with change and to be effective leaders,’ she added.

The resource outlines Board Member  roles, duties and responsibilities and the relationship between Board Members, Management, Staff and Volunteers. It also provides an introduction to the history of the rape crisis movement and its development, as well as the considerable range of services provided by an RCNI member RCC.

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Further information contact:
Eileen Keleghan
086 0603646

Consistency of sentencing in sexual violence cases urgently needed

The RCNI today calls for sentencing guidelines to be developed as a matter of urgency – and support the Law Reform Commission’s call for same in their report released today entitled, ‘Report on Mandatory Sentencing’.

On behalf of victims of rape nationwide, we call on Minister Shatter to support the Irish judiciary in their need for sufficient support and data on sentencing and call for the full and adequate resourcing of the work of the Irish Sentencing Information System, and the research on sentencing being undertaken by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

RCNI Director, Fiona Neary said ‘each survivor’s experience of the justice system, including sentencing, is unique. For a victim whose case has gone to court and secured a conviction, sentencing is hopefully the final step in the justice process. It is helpful to every survivor to have reliable information on what to expect. Any lack of clarity and information on sentencing is unhelpful. Victims can see the sentences which cause controversy in the media – however these may not be typical of sentencing in rape cases – public responses to these exceptions can put victims off reporting because they do not have the full information. Guidelines on sentencing would also help victims of rape in deciding to report and knowing what to expect.

‘Rape Crisis Centres support survivors through this lengthy and demanding justice process. With the support the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime RCNI provides nationwide training to Rape Crisis Centre support workers and volunteers in providing advocacy and support through the legal process.’

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Notes:

RCNI is the national representative body for the Rape Crisis sector in Ireland.
The Law Reform Commission today launch the Report on Mandatory Sentences, one of its main recommendations is that, ‘the Commission supports previous recommendations (including in the 2011 Report of the Thornton Hall Review Group) that a Judicial Council should be able to develop and publish suitable guidance or guidelines on sentencing.’

For information please contact Cliona on 087 2196447

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release

RCNI were shocked today to hear about the case of a Garda who is being prosecuted for allegedly forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions informing a survivor of sexual violence that their case had been dropped, when in fact it had not.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said, ‘this allegation, if proved, represents a betrayal of trust of survivors and indeed of An Garda Siochana. Sexual violence crimes are difficult to investigate and to prosecute, and the commitment and perseverance of An Garda Siochana are vital to secure justice  for survivors of sexual violence.

‘RCNI asks the Garda Commissioner to reassure survivors  that this incident is very far from typical and that this allegation, if proved, in no way reflects general Garda attitudes to investigating sexual violence crimes. Survivors must be able to trust that all criminal justice professionals take these crimes seriously and act in the interests of justice. The high standards set out in the Garda Siochana Policy on the investigation of crimes of sexual violence must be seen by survivors to be put into practice by An Garda Siochana at every level, and in this regard, RCNI acknowledges some very positive effects for survivors of the implementation by An Garda Siochana of that Policy.

‘The RCNI, its Rape Crisis Centres and An Garda Siochana, nationally and locally have worked hard building good and appropriate relationships in the interests of the effective investigation of sexual crimes and to vindicate survivors’ rights and dignity. It is in everyone’s interest that no questions remain over the commitment of all to the common goal of securing justice.’

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For information:

Eileen Keleghan 086-0603646

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release

RCNI calls on the Garda Commissioner to ensure a thorough review of all investigation processes relating to Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí 

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has called on the Garda Commissioner to conduct a thorough review of investigations into allegations of sexual violence committed by Irish College founder Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí, which may date as far back as 1955.

RCNI Executive Director Fiona Neary said; “Mr Ó Lubhlaí has allegations against him that date from 1955 up to the present day. It appears that at least two opportunities in 1991 and 1998 were presented to the Gardaí to investigate allegations against this very influential and powerful figure. We ask the Garda Commissioner to ensure a full review to ascertain if the Gardaí utilised the opportunity of the investigation in 1991 to examine whether abuse had taken place, as was practiced elsewhere in such incidents eg in the investigation and conviction of Fr Eugene Greene. Questions also surround the loss of vital evidence from this 1991 case which then impacted on an investigation in 1998, when five men came forward and reported sexual violence by Ó Lubhlaí”.

‘It is vital that all allegations of sexual abuse are investigated fully by authorities in order to ensure the best response to survivors and to prevent future acts of sexual violence being committed by perpetrators’.

‘We commend the victims who came forward in 1998 and more recently. Support is available from Rape Crisis Centres across Ireland for survivors or their loved ones or communities who may be struggling with the impact of this case’.

To find your local Rape Crisis Centre see www.rcni.ie

ENDS

For information contact Clíona Saidléar
087 2196447

RCNI welcome today’s decision by Judge Carney to revoke Bail in the Patrick O’Brien sexual abuse case

Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘RCNI welcome the news that Patrick O’Brien will now go to jail and start his sentence.

We commend Judge Carney for recognising and apologising for his earlier decision on bail and in taking swift action to revoke that bail for Patrick O’Brien. We feel this is appropriate given the seriousness of the case. We hope Fiona Doyle feels that she has been heard and taken seriously within the criminal justice system and that this action by the court Judge can go some way to healing the trauma she expressed after the sentence hearing on Monday.

‘Judge Carney also spoke about wanting to involve other judges in the decisions he was faced with on Monday. We hope that judges will use the experience of this case to work with others concerned with the criminal justice system to look at establishing guidelines for sentencing. The RCNI will also continue to support judges in whatever way appropriate, including calling for the full resourcing of the sentencing database to assist judges.’

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Rape Crisis Network Ireland call for the end of granting bail after a conviction for rape

Following the latest controversial sentencing of a convicted serious sexual offender, RCNI call for renewed urgency in reforming sentencing and bail practices.

Fiona Neary, Executive Director said, ‘sentencing is the final stage of a long and arduous journey for a survivor of rape and sexual crimes. It is estimated that only 2- 5% of all rapes will reach this point, as most victims will choose not to make any report. Sentencing for this small number of survivors is a vindication of not only their own rights and dignity but a resounding signal to fellow survivors that the State takes the violence they have experienced seriously. When a sentence fails to satisfy the dignity of the individual survivor, it fails other survivors who will never have their day in court.

‘This latest sentencing decision, where Patrick O’Brien was released on continued Bail having been given a 12 year custodial sentence, comes on the back of other controversial sentences over the past few months.

‘Consistency in sentencing continues to be of concern. While the average length of a sentence for rape is 9 years and 3 months (RAJI) there is variety in the final sentences for each individual case beyond the individual characteristics of cases. RCNI continue to strongly advocate for sentencing guidelines for judges to support consistency.

‘The RCNI are also advocating a number of reforms to bail practices. As recommended by Rape and Justice in Ireland 2009, Bail in rape cases should always be subject to strict conditions especially considering RAJI found 77% of defendants (for all rape cases between 2000 & 2005) are granted bail at some stage in the criminal justice process. However, Bail should not be granted to a defendant who has been convicted of rape as it is anticipated that a custodial sentence will follow. It is our firm belief, and a conclusion of the RAJI researchers, that bail after conviction cannot serve justice. Additionally, in the past it has permitted convicted rapists to abscond to avoid justice.’

Notes:

  • Figures above from RAJI: Rape & Justice in Ireland: a national study of Survivor, prosecutor and court responses to rape, Conor Hanly with Deirdre Healy and Stacey Scriver, RCNI, Liffey Press 2009
  • Sentences that have caused controversy recently have included the sentencing of Anthony Lyons and Graham Griffiths who were both fined 75,000 and 15,000 respectively alongside greatly and entirely suspended sentences.

Rape, Pregnancy and Abortion in Ireland – RCNI release new figures today

Today Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) release the latest figures on survivors of rape who were pregnant as a result, who had abortions.

 In 2011, of the 2,036 female survivors of sexual violence who attended a Rape Crisis Centre (RCC),

  • 90 girls and women became pregnant as a result of rape
  • 17 survivors, pregnant as a result of rape, terminated the pregnancy.
  • Two survivors became pregnant more than once as a result of rape and had different outcomes in each pregnancy.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said, ‘in the abortion debate there has been some talk about the case of women who have been raped and are pregnant as a result. It is important this discussion is informed by the best available facts and a compassionate understanding of the realities facing these girls and women in Ireland.

‘90 girls and women, who were pregnant after rape, were supported in Rape Crisis Centres (RCC) across Ireland in 2011. These numbers represent one part of the picture as not all rape survivors seek or can access RCC support.

 ‘It is also important to bear in mind that these numbers cannot tell us how, why and under what circumstances those outcomes came about. They do not tell us about a survivor’s circumstances, age, resources, access to information and support or their relationship to the rapist.

‘When drawing on the example of rape survivors an assumption can sometimes be made that the decisions are somehow simplified, feelings are straightforward and that moral and ethical complexities are largely nullified by the fact of conception through rape. This is not the rape crisis experience.

‘For many women and teenagers pregnancy resulting from rape can cause additional trauma and certainly complexities; these demand our greatest compassion. RCNI would urge commentators to remember this when they reach for the example of rape victims in the abortion debate.’

Notes:

  • RCNI is the national representative body for the Rape Crisis Sector in Ireland
  • All statistics are from the RCNI Database©
  • Additional figures of the 90 girls and women who were pregnant after rape in 2011, 60 survivors went to term, of whom 12 had their child adopted or fostered. A further 11 miscarried or had stillbirths. Please go to www.rcni.ie/rcni-publications.aspx for full fact sheet with graph.