Dáil Éireann - Volume 546 - 13 December, 2001

Written Answers. - Sexual Offences.

219. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the works under consideration to reduce and prevent the increase in sexual crimes, especially the number of rapes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31773/01]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): An increase in the incidence of any form of crime is, of course, a cause for concern, and particularly so with respect to sex-related crimes. The Deputy will be aware that earlier this year I launched a research report entitled Attrition in Sexual Assault Cases in Ireland: A Qualitative Analysis, which describes victims' interaction with various parts of the criminal justice system.

The resulting recommendations have implications not only for a number of areas of that system but also relate to wider social, health, education and media issues. I have referred the report and its recommendations to the national steering committee on violence against women, which is chaired by my colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, for further consideration.

[1333] As the Deputy may be aware, the national steering committee, on which the network of rape crisis centres and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre are both represented, is charged, inter alia, with the responsibility for providing a multi-agency, cohesive response to victims of violence. The national steering committee is developing an information and awareness campaign targeted specifically at victims of rape and sexual assault.

The Garda Síochána and, in particular, the domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit liaise with rape crisis centres throughout the country and encourage early reporting by victims who contact the centres. In addition, the Garda Síochána research unit at the Garda Training College, Templemore, has had a number of workshops with the rape crisis centres and other NGOs on reconciling the statistics on sexual offences produced by the various agencies involved so as to more accurately assess the levels of reported sexual crime. The national crime council plans to commission a major research study on domestic violence which may examine the issue of sexual violence within a domestic situation.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Sex Offenders Act, 2001, provides for separate legal representation for victims of rape and other serious sexual offences in particular circumstances. The Act also provides for a new notification procedure for all convicted sex offenders. The system, known as a tracking system, allows for the gardaí to be aware at all times of the current names and addresses of convicted sex offenders who, within seven days of their conviction or following their release from prison where appropriate, will have to notify their names and addresses to the gardaí. Any subsequent changes to their names and addresses will have to be similarly notified again within seven days of the event, including details of any trips abroad lasting seven days or more. The notification requirement will also extend to all persons entering this country, and not just Irish citizens, who have been convicted of a sex offence in another jurisdiction.

In 2001 funding from the Department of Health and Children for victim services and facilities has increased and this will, I have no doubt, benefit the range and level of services in all regions. I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to keep the position under review.

Question No. 220 answered with Question No. 31.