RCNI strongly welcomes the return to the Dáil of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill this week by An Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD, and is hopeful that it will now be possible to amend this Bill to include a positive definition of consent to sexual activity.
If it is not, RCNI urges the introduction of such a definition with the minimum delay. Defining consent in our criminal law will help set a clear standard of behaviour that distinguishes sexual violence from legitimate sexual activity, for prosecutors, juries, victims and other witnesses in court, and also for the whole community outside court.
Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Policy Director said, “Our rape crisis centres are well aware of the damage caused by sexual violence to children. There is much here to commend.
RCNI also welcomes the inclusion in this Bill of much-needed new offences, and amendments to existing offences, to combat the scourge of child pornography. Caroline Counihan added that “a large part of this violence against children begins with “grooming” behaviours which do not always fit in to the existing categories of offences. The laws must fit the realities of today’s childhood. The introduction of a new offence of grooming of children including grooming via social media and otherwise through the use of information technology is very welcome.
Furthermore, RCNI is very much in favour of the introduction of a statutory regime, through which our judges will be able to regulate the disclosure of victims’ personal counselling records in criminal trials. For the first time, there will be a right to object to such disclosure and it is important that the relevant procedures work properly for victims. The survivor- therapist relationship is one which supports healing and recovery. It is a relationship of trust where survivors can find a uniquely safe space to talk about intimate, personal and perhaps frightening matters.
With regard to the special measures in the Bill to support child victims of sexual violence in Court, RCNI urges our legislators to extend these supports to all victims of sexual violence. This group of especially vulnerable victims deserves both to be protected from further trauma and to be enabled to give their best evidence, as far as possible.
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- RCNI, founded by Rape Crisis Centres in 1985, is a specialist information and resource centre on rape and all forms of sexual violence. Rape Crisis Centres provide free advice, counselling and support for all survivors of sexual violence.