RCNI strongly welcome the publication of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offices) Bill and commend Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald but express disappointment at a lack of definition of consent.
Clíona Saidléar, RCNI Acting Director said, ‘This long awaited legislation is one of the most important advances in the legal framework around sexual violence crimes in recent years. There is much here to commend. However, RCNI are disappointed that no definition of consent, a concept which is pivotal to sexual offences, has not been included in this important legislation.
‘Everything we know about sexual violence and today’s culture tells us we cannot assume a common understanding of consent, therefore it must be defined in law. The consequence of not defining consent may be that we leave grey areas for perpetrators of sexual crimes to get away with their crimes and we leave victims much too vulnerable to invasive questioning as to their behavior and character. The law must do its utmost to protect victims from unjust blame and silencing. We would urge the legislature to insert a definition of consent into this Bill.’
Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘we are constantly reminded of the devastation caused to children by sexual violence. A large part of this violence 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.
‘RCNI welcomes the introduction of a statutory regime to regulate disclosure of counselling records relating to victims, in criminal proceedings. 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.
The Bill means that a judge will decide whether and/or to what extent, any disclosure of therapist notes will be allowed, and in doing so, s/he will take into account the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of such intimate and personal records, as well as the right of the accused to a fair trial.’
RCNI look forward to reading the Bill in detail and responding more comprehensively in the days to come.
- Please see www.rcni.ie under publications and submission for a range of RCNI documentation which contributed in detail to the contents of this Bill.
- RCNI is also a member of Turn off the Red light the campaign to introduce the criminalisation of the buyer of sex.