RCNI today welcomes the commencement in full by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee of the Criminal Procedure Act 2021. This Act introduces preliminary trial hearings, including those related to sexual offences, that can now take place from today. RCNI has lobbied for the introduction of pre-trial hearings since 2008 and they are an important part of the implementation plan Supporting a Victim’s Journey arising from Tom O’Malley’s Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses In the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences. Minister McEntee is to be congratulated on her work in ensuring that they have become a reality.
RCNI hopes that over time preliminary trial hearings will have real potential to reduce delays and the attendant stress and uncertainties on survivors of sexual violence. It is also hoped that they will reduce the number of cases being listed, adjourned late and delayed – only to be relisted then re-adjourned. A reduction in the number of times a case is listed will have a positive impact on the survivor’s experience of the justice system as every time a case is scheduled the survivor’s memories and attendant emotions are likely to be triggered.
RCNI looks forward to working with the Department of Justice on further measures to benefit survivors of sexual violence. More information on the Criminal Procedures Act 2021 can be found here.