Specialised judges could preside over domestic, sexual and gender-based violence cases
Specialised judges could preside over criminal trials involving domestic, sexual and gender-based violence under a new five-year strategy launched by ministers.
Led by justice minister Helen McEntee, the €363 million “zero tolerance” strategy was published yesterday, accompanied by an 18-month implementation plan containing 144 detailed actions to be implemented this year and next through new oversight structures.
Under the “prosecution” pillar, the strategy includes measures such as increasing the maximum sentence from five years to 10 years for assault causing harm, one of the most common charges in cases of domestic abuse.
It also says the government will begin engagement with the judiciary to consider the creation of specialised judges for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence cases.
Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The launch of the third domestic, sexual and gender-based violence strategy is an incredibly important moment for our country.
“It signals the government’s determination to affirm and protect some of our most vulnerable people. It will accomplish this through a comprehensive set of actions reaching across Government, spearheaded by a dedicated new Agency with oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach.
“Its ambitions extend to many parts of our society from education, to healthcare, and into our workplaces to name a few. Every sector has a part to play in calling out and taking action against DSGBV so that, once and for all, we reject the outmoded beliefs on which it rests.”
Mrs McEntee said: “Zero tolerance means we don’t turn a blind eye to violence and abuse just because it’s behind closed doors. It means we don’t laugh off inappropriate touching or comments. It means we teach our children equality and respect from a young age.
“We will strive for zero tolerance through greater education and awareness to change attitudes and teach respect. By supporting victims with compassion when they take the brave step and come forward to seek our help. With effective punishment for perpetrators. And with a sustained will and dedication to bring about the change we need.
“This strategy is the most ambitious to date in seeking to bring about that change. It will see the fastest ever expansion of refuge spaces and improved services and support for victims through a €363 million investment, and updated primary and secondary school curricula to include consent, coercive control, domestic violence and safe use of the internet.
“It has been developed with those working in the sector and on the frontline with victims. The knowledge and experience of these groups has been crucial in drafting this plan, and will be central to its implementation over the next five years.
“It has also been developed with the pain and suffering of too many victims at the forefront of our thoughts – we commit to them and their memories, and to each other, that we will work towards zero tolerance as our ultimate goal.”