Tom O’Malley BL to chair review of investigation and prosecution of sex crimes
Tom O’Malley BL has been appointed to chair a review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences in Ireland.
The Government has published the terms of reference for the review announced months ago in the wake of a high-profile rape trial in Belfast.
The nine-week trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding on rape charges ended in acquittal at the end of March.
The working group charged with conducting the review has been asked to present a final report to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan by the end of the year.
Mr Flanagan said: “Following a period of preparatory work, including consultations with stakeholders, I am today publishing the Terms of Reference for the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences and announcing the establishment of the working group.
“This review represents an important step in ensuring that victims of sexual violence will not be further traumatised by the trial process, and that perpetrators of such serious crimes can be held to account. I am very grateful to Tom O’Malley for agreeing to chair the review and he will bring a wealth of expertise to this issue.”
The terms of reference for the review were drawn up through consultation with stakeholder groups who were asked to identify their main concerns within current practice and procedure, from the point of view of victims.
The working group has been asked to give particular regard to reports by expert bodies including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
The full terms of reference include the following elements:
- Access to specialist training for An Garda Síochána, members of the judiciary and legal professionals dealing with sexual offences;
- Practical supports for victims through the reporting, investigation and trial processes;
- The provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during the court process;
- Examination of measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence, including the use of measures such as pre-recorded evidence or video-link;
- The causes of delay in sexual offence trials, and the effect of delay upon vulnerable witnesses;
- The use of pre-trial hearings to determine evidential issues including conflicts of evidence and sexual experience evidence;
- Provision for restrictions on public attendance at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences.
Mr Flanagan added: “I am confident that the working group of the Criminal Justice Strategic Committee, under the guidance of such an experienced individual as Tom O’Malley, will provide a valuable contribution to our efforts to improve services and supports for victims of sexual abuse.
“I have asked for practical recommendations that I can act on without delay.”