Domestic and Sexual Violence: Discussion

The purpose of this section of the meeting is to discuss the issue of domestic and sexual violence with a number of stakeholders. Members will recall that the committee invited written submissions on this topic. Each group will be invited to make an opening statement of approximately five minutes. This will be followed by a question and answer session. I ask everybody to turn off their mobile phones. Silent or flight mode is not sufficient because it will interfere with the recording equipment. If anybody says something interesting during such interference, it will not be broadcast in the media or anywhere else. All phones should be turned off.

On behalf of the committee, I am pleased to welcome Ms Caroline Counihan of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Ms Sarah Benson of Ruhama, Ms Laura Pohjolainen of the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Ms Maire Mulcahy of the women's committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Dr. Teresa Whitaker of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, Ms Lucy Smith of Ugly Mugs, Ms Felicity Kennedy of the Women's Therapy Centre, Ms Siobhan Barron of the National Disability Authority, Ms Fiona Hurley of Nasc and Ms Rita Harling of the Do or Die Foundation. They are all very welcome.

Before we begin, I want to draw the attention of all witnesses to the situation in relation to privilege. I ask them to note that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given. They are asked to respect the parliamentary practice that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members should be aware that under the salient rulings of the Chair, they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

The purpose of this meeting is to assist the committee in bringing recommendations to the Government with respect to sexual and domestic violence. We are not going beyond that remit. If people talk about something else, I will bring them back to the subject of this meeting. I want to keep it focused. I invite the witnesses to speak for five minutes each. We will be as tight as we can on the time. I ask witnesses to bring up any salient points they want to make about sexual and domestic violence in Ireland. We want to focus on remedies. We know the problems. We know there are issues. We want to hear any ideas the witnesses might have about what the Government, the committee and the Oireachtas can do to remedy and address these issues. We need to prevent this from happening in the first place, if we can at all. I ask witnesses to focus on that.

After the opening statements, we will have a question and answer session. I will explain how that will work. The first person who arrived in will be invited to spend five minutes asking questions and getting answers. That is how we work it. The next person who came in will then have five minutes to ask questions and get answers. I do not want speeches from members. We can have speeches in the Houses. I want questions. Members should be trying to get information from the witnesses. That is what we are looking for because time is very tight. I ask Ms Caroline Counihan of Rape Crisis Network Ireland to make the first presentation. She has five minutes.

Ms Caroline Counihan

Rape Crisis Network Ireland puts the needs of survivors at the core of all its activities in order to provide the best possible response. It is our contention that in order to reduce attrition rates, improvements in victims' experiences are vital for the justice system. Given the remit of this committee, we will focus today on the engagement of rape victims with the justice system. It is clear that if there is to be a credible Government response to the pervasiveness of sexual violence, there will have to be a much broader focus than a concentration on the justice system. Approximately 30% of rape crisis survivors decide to make a formal complaint to An Garda Síochána. By working side by side with these survivors, we build our knowledge about the positive changes that would enable more survivors of rape and other crimes of sexual violence to make and maintain complaints. Some of the relevant services we provide to survivors include specialist accompaniment services from trained volunteers who accompany survivors to sexual assault treatment units, Garda appointments and court proceedings. Rape Crisis Network Ireland provides legal information on its help website and has published a guide to the legal process for survivors. Legal advice and support are made available to survivors, staff and volunteers from the network's legal director.

The experiences of our clients as they go through the criminal justice system inform and direct us in our legal advocacy work. We have published a number of detailed policy papers and submissions on various legal topics. If the criminal justice system experience becomes less daunting for survivors, attrition rates are likely to fall. As a consequence, reporting and - eventually - conviction rates will rise. This is important from a prevention or public policy viewpoint. The need to reduce, as far as possible, the risk that survivors will be retraumatised as they progress through the criminal justice process is at least as important. Organisations involved in the rape crisis sector, including Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ruhama and the National Disability Authority, have been campaigning for over 40 years for the reform of the justice system as it relates to sexual violence.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ruhama and the National Disability Authority, to name three organisations present at the meeting, have been campaigning for over 40 years on reform of the justice system for dealing with sexual violence. It is very welcome that the committee has focused on this issue as, unfortunately, much remains to be done.

I will explain the principal recommendations, beginning with legal changes. I have divided the changes into pre-trial, at-trial and post-trial procedures. Bail granted before conviction should always be subject to stringent conditions and breach of bail should be dealt with promptly and severely if proved. Pre-trial hearings and active case management before and during trials should be the norm to avoid delay and uncertainty as far as possible for complainants and others. Disclosure of counselling records should be regulated by statute and ruled upon by judges. The law on evidence of other sexual experience should be clarified by statutory change and-or more detailed rules, both before and during trial. Survivors reporting sexual violence crimes to the Garda Síochána should be given both general information about their role and the process and specific information on their own case. Survivors should be protected from unnecessarily oppressive, prolonged, or repeated questioning during investigation. Survivors should have the right to be accompanied to a Garda interview and to court, unless, exceptionally, there are very good reasons why that should not be allowed in a particular case. The DPP should give reasons to the survivor when it is decided not to prosecute.

With regard to substantive law we recommend that existing provisions on sexual crimes against those with intellectual disabilities should be overhauled. Specific offences of grooming, voyeurism and unlawful sexual activity by someone in a position of trust or authority, should be enacted. Honest belief in consent or age of complainant should be honest and reasonable and there should be a positive definition of consent to sexual activity.

I will speak briefly about our recommendations for at-trial procedure. Special measures should be made available to all complainants as of right. Personal cross-examination of the complainant by the accused should not be allowed. Evidence of demeanour and dress should not be allowed in relation to victims of child sexual violence, whatever their age. Case management rules should empower judges to curtail unnecessarily oppressive and-or prolonged cross-examination of complainants. Sentencing should be as transparent and consistent as possible, in accordance with agreed guidelines and should reflect fully the gravity of the offence and its impacts.

As time is limited I note that the recommendations also include non-legal changes, the use of specialist gardaí and training for judges and courts.

Ms Sarah Benson

I thank the Chairman and committee members for the opportunity to speak today on the important issue of sexual violence and in our case, specifically focusing on prostitution as a form of sexual gender-based violence. Ruhama is a long standing member of the national steering committee on violence against women we regard our own operations as directly working to combat violence against women through front line engagement with and support and advocacy on behalf of women affected by prostitution. From Ruhama's perspective, prostitution constitutes violence against women and is a fundamental violation of women's and girls' human rights. Prostitution is inherently harmful and abusive. It violates the human dignity and integrity guaranteed to all in the UN Declaration on Human Rights 1949.

Whether consciously or not, some people consider prostitution to be a reasonable choice for a particular sector or class of women. Prostitution is somehow acceptable for poor women, vulnerable women, indigenous women, women of colour, of different race, instead of being seen as sexual exploitation and a human rights violation. If this view is accepted, it is a toleration of the creation of a separate, expendable, throwaway class of women. Intrinsic to prostitution are numerous violations of human rights: sexual harassment, economic servitude, educational deprivation, partner and family violence, racism, class issues, vulnerability to frequent physical and sexual assault, degrading treatment, trafficking and child abuse. While the number of boys and men prostitution is small, women and girls represent the overwhelming majority of those bought and sold in the sex trade. Prostitution is not an isolated individual act; it is part of an organised system, which feeds on abuse, distress, vulnerability and inequality. Obviously not all women in poverty or drug addiction or who have been abused, become ensnared in prostitution. However, it is clear that both the risk and reality of prostitution for millions of women and girls internationally are closely connected with other forms of gender-based violence and can be said to be a direct consequence of gender inequality. This understanding of prostitution is also supported by a vast amount of research both nationally and internationally. It is a view borne out in numerous international conventions, plans and resolutions which are highlighted in our written submission to the committee.

The starting position that prostitution is a form of gender-based violence is fundamental to achieving an effective and meaningful response. Such a response must target three areas: prevention, which means stopping vulnerable women and girls from being drawn into prostitution; protection, which involves practical supports for those in prostitution; and an exit strategy to explore and facilitate opportunities for those wishing to leave. Some activists and feminists, as well as organisations supported by the sex trade, argue that prostitution per se should be exempted from the category of human rights violations. They propose that instead of seeing prostitution as a human rights violation, the assumption should be that prostitution is a human right, a right of a woman to do what she wants with her body. Prostitution in this argument is constructed as sex work and it is proposed that all aspects of prostitution, soliciting, selling, buying and pimping, be decriminalised.

Ruhama contends that countries that have tried to regulate or decriminalise the sex trade have been shown to have failed on the key objectives for which regulation was introduced in the first place, such as reducing stigma, violence or harm to those in prostitution. Regulated and decriminalised environments create a huge increase in not only the regulated but also the illegal trade, proportionately increasing sex trafficking and effectively removing much of the already limited power the prostituted woman or girl, by conferring it on pimps and organisers who are legitimised and transformed into businessmen. Countries that have taken this approach also fail to give any meaningful consideration or resourcing to either prevention or exiting supports for those at risk of or in prostitution. This is because viewing prostitution as simply work helps to keep women in prostitution, whereas viewing prostitution as a violation of women's human rights helps keep women and girls out of prostitution. Ruhama recommends the following measures as a minimum response in Ireland, which we believe are congruent with a positive action against domestic and sexual violence and also with the committee's separate recommendations on Ireland's prostitution laws. It is timely to note that just this morning, the European Parliament voted a landmark resolution confirming all forms of prostitution as violence against women, a human rights abuse and incompatible with the charter of fundamental rights. It called on member states to consider the Nordic model.

Ruhama recommends naming prostitution as a form of violence against women and girls in the national action plan on domestic, sexual and gender based violence and in policies and actions that may devolve from this plan; a recognition of the need for and resourcing of supports to those trapped in prostitution as vulnerable persons; recognition and resourcing of targeted interventions to high risk groups, specifically, minors in residential care settings or in receipt of social interventions due to neglect, abuse or at-risk behaviours. Grooming is still not an offence in this jurisdiction and this is one of the most common mechanisms for the exploitation of minors into prostitution; resourcing of preventative programmes, including education and awareness programmes on domestic and sexual violence in schools and colleges that explicitly incorporate the issue prostitution as a form of violence against, and a risk to, women and girls; legislative measures to ensure that those in prostitution are not criminalised but which target the sex buyer and others who are the source of demand for the exploitation of prostitution; awareness-raising programmes to educate boys and men about the harm of prostitution and to challenge perceptions of entitlement to buy sex, including targeting sex buyers as a part of any programmes on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Ms Laura Pohjolainen

Pavee Point thanks the committee for the opportunity to attend this meeting and to raise some of the concerns about domestic and sexual violence in Traveller and Roma communities. Pavee Point is a national Traveller and Roma organisation which works towards attaining human rights for Travellers and Roma in Ireland. Our submission contains a number of recommendations for policy and legislation in order to prevent domestic and sexual violence. These include amendment of the habitual residence condition; development of an adequate and comprehensive national Traveller and Roma integration strategy; signature and ratification of the Council of Europe convention on combatting and preventing violence against women and domestic violence.

It is important to understand that domestic and sexual violence are not more prevalent in minority ethnic groups such as Traveller and Roma cultures. However, Traveller and Roma women are more vulnerable to such violence because of discrimination based on their ethnicity and gender. Due to this racism and discrimination, many Traveller and Roma women experience poverty, high levels of unemployment, low educational attainment levels, social isolation, mental and physical health issues and poor standards of accommodation as well as homelessness. This situation makes Roma and Traveller women more vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence, including prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation. It also creates significant barriers to accessing services and protections that are crucial for women experiencing violence. As a result, many Traveller and Roma women rarely access services and have little choice but to stay in violent relationships and situations or to face homelessness, destitution and social isolation.

The habitual residence condition, HRC, is a serious obstacle to fleeing violence for Traveller and Roma women. Many Roma women in particular fail to satisfy the HRC even though they have been living in the State for significant periods of time. Without access to social protection, access to services for such women is also denied. For instance, access to a refuge is dependent on the woman's ability to pay for her place or whether she is in receipt of social protection. Clearly, Roma women who are not in employment and are not habitually resident are unable to get help in refuges.

No person should be left outside the State's protection systems. We recommend an exemption to the HRC in respect of women who are affected by domestic and sexual violence as well as the introduction of guidelines in the HRC for dealing with individuals who experience domestic and sexual violence. We also urge the Government to meet its requirements to develop an adequate and comprehensive national Traveller and Roma integration strategy. This needs to have clear goals, timeframes and funding mechanisms to address the structural inequality, discrimination, racism and poverty that Traveller and Roma women face and that are at the core of putting women at risk of domestic and sexual violence.

Ireland's current strategy has been criticised by the European Commission as having significant shortcomings. The improvement of the socioeconomic situation of Traveller and Roma women is key to ensuring adequate protection for them from violence and to increasing their access to services and protections. It would also be possible through this strategy to address anti-Roma and anti-Traveller racism and discrimination, which are the root cause of women not being able to access services and protections.

I ask Ms Pohjolainen to conclude, please.

Ms Laura Pohjolainen

We urge the Government to sign and ratify the Council of Europe convention. This would allow us to address the ineffectiveness of the legislation in the criminal and civil justice systems, for example, long delays in accessing court orders, inconsistent responses from the Garda and low conviction and imprisonment rates.

I thank Ms Pohjolainen. I welcome Ms Maire Mulcahy of the women's committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU.

Ms Maire Mulcahy

I thank the committee for the opportunity to present to it. ICTU's women's committee comprises representatives of 47 affiliates, with a combined membership of more than 778,000 people, some 52% of ICTU's membership.

One of ICTU's fundamental values is the right of every citizen to live and work without fear and intimidation. Our summary document, which we forwarded last week, opened with an inventory of horror. We have been encouraged not to repeat the data, which are available, but three or four points merit repetition - 14,792 is the number of incidents of domestic violence disclosed to the Women's Aid national freefone service in 2012; 194 is the number of women murdered in the Republic since 1996, 119 of whom were killed in their own homes and, of the 142 murder cases where the perpetrators were noted, 75 women or 53% were killed by a partner or ex-partner; 7,797 is the number of women who received support from domestic violence services, an increase of 3.5% since 2010; 3,066 is the number of children who received support; and 322 is the shortfall in refuge places using the Council Of Europe's recommended ratio of one refuge to 10,000 people, given the fact that Ireland has only 136 refuges.

In this context, ICTU has made recommendations concerning what needs to be done in the workplace, in law and in State policy and services. We advocate an employer-union policy statement that has clear aims and commits the organisation to treat domestic abuse seriously. A statement from an employer is a powerful message. Such a policy could include a recognition that the health of the employee is the employer's paramount concern. It could also include training for HR or employee welfare staff. It should identify detailed support services and could provide time off as necessary for employees to avail of and organise medical assistance, legal advice and rehousing arrangements, extended paid leave and job security for employees attempting to escape domestic abuse and offer the possibility of a transfer where applicable and appropriate. The policy would also involve the creation of employee assistance schemes that named and identified domestic and sexual violence as matters that fall within their remit and effective policies against discrimination and sexual harassment.

We call on the relevant Departments to invest in and develop comprehensive education programmes that increase young people's understanding of the effects of violence and how it undermines gender equality and human dignity. Programmes should be developed to encourage men and boys to become active and strategic partners and allies in the prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. There should be an increase in funding from Cosc to extend the worthwhile White Ribbon and Man-Up campaigns with which we have worked. HSE funding should be maintained for the Men Ending Domestic Violence, MEND, initiative, which includes some rehabilitative work with perpetrators. The Government should also legislate as per the recommendation of the Oireachtas committee to criminalise the purchase of sex.

I must stop Ms Mulcahy, as her time is up. I thank her for her contribution and we will note her points about Safe Ireland, etc. Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, DRCC, has five minutes.

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre welcomes the opportunity to present on the proposed sexual offences Bill. The centre has operated as a front-line service for victims of rape, sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse since the 1970s. Our submission addresses four areas in which we believe change is necessary, those being, the disclosure of counselling and psychotherapy notes in the criminal justice system; the need for a definition of consent in the proposed new legislation; that non-exploitative sexual expression between young people is decriminalised by reference to a close age difference; and that the age of consent of sexual activity be retained at 17 years.

Regarding the disclosure of counselling and psychotherapy notes, the committee knows from our detailed submission that substantial work has been done with the support of the Public Interest Law Alliance, PILA, which provides a comprehensive overview of the procedures governing the disclosure and production of records in other common law jurisdictions, including Western Australia and Canada.

The DRCC's position is that counselling and psychotherapy notes have no place in the criminal justice system. Client notes reflect the work and healing space between therapist and client and, as such, reflect the internal world of the client. The notes should remain confidential to maintain the integrity and healing potential of that process. However, we also accept that there are a small number of necessary limitations to confidentiality, for example, if there is a threat to a person's life or if there is a child protection issue.

Until recently, the DRCC's policy was not to hand over client notes when requested by the criminal justice system. However, what happened in reality was quite different. When a client gave his or her permission to have his or her therapy notes disclosed and when subpoenaed by the judge, the DRCC handed over the notes. This policy was resulting in further trauma to our clients.

In addition, the absence of legislation specifically privileging therapy notes, as an interim measure to help alleviate this re-traumatisation to the client, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre drew up a memorandum of understanding with the office of the Director of Public Prosecution. This memorandum of understanding sets out procedures for disclosure and ensures that the client is giving informed consent.

While this interim policy is proving to relieve the clients of the previous extra stress and upset, it is not as satisfactory as having a long-term legislative solution. We are hoping that the new legislation will be robust enough to ensure that psychotherapy and counselling notes are not readily disclosed; that there is acknowledgement of the complainant’s right to privacy, full separate legal representation to vindicate that right, and that respect is given to the counselling and psychotherapy process; and at the same time that the legislation permits the disclosure of psychotherapy and counselling notes where relevance has been established, thus affirming the accused person’s rights to a fair trial.

With regard to the definition of consent, belief in consent is an easy defence to raise but hard to disprove. We would like to see a definition of consent included in the new sex offences Bill and that we learn from the issues that have arisen from the definition in the United Kingdom Sexual Offences Act 2003, which states that "a person consents if he ... agrees, by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice". However, terms such as "freedom", "choice" and "agreement" are complex and ambiguous concepts which defy precise definition. Other common law jurisdictions, for example New Zealand, provide a list of circumstances where consent is deemed as not being present and perhaps we could explore how we could have a combination of both definitions.

With regard to experimental sexual behaviour, we would hope that non-exploitative sexual expression between young people would be decriminalised by reference to a close age difference. We believe that experimental sexual behaviour between children of comparable age where there is no coercion or intimidation involved is not an offence.

With regard to the age of consent, the DRCC supports keeping the age of consent at 17. Two recent items of research in 2012 by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Royal College of Surgeons point to the fact that men and women aged between 18 and 24 reported a median age of 17 for their first sexual intercourse experience. Most of them said it occurred at about the right time. Those who had sex before 17 were more likely to have wished that they had waited longer and less likely to have used contraception at first intercourse. Many of the young people with whom we work with in schools on the BodyRight programme say that being able to say that the age of consent is 17 is a protection for them.

We have the highest attrition rate in 11 European countries, to which my colleague referred. Rape and other sexual violent crimes are being committed with impunity. We need to stop this happening and by making the necessary changes to our laws that will support the victim remaining in the system and getting the case to court while at the same time ensuring that the accused gets a fair trial augurs well for a safer society for all. I thank the members for their attention.

I thank Ms O'Malley-Dunlop. I call Dr. Teresa Whitaker who will have five minutes.

Dr. Teresa Whitaker

The main focus of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, SWAI's submission is the issue of how violence against sex workers should and should not be addressed, and recommendations are provided on reducing violence against sex workers. The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, stated: "Stop persecuting sex workers". The United Nations Special Rights Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Anand Grover, recommended the repealing of laws criminalising sex work and practices surrounding it.

The question is whether we want a society where sex workers are persecuted and socially excluded or a society where sex workers are socially included and respected. The UNAIDS compiled a briefing note in recent weeks entitled The Legal Status of Sex Work: Key Human Rights and Public Health Considerations. Its main points are that sex work should not be conflated with human trafficking and that criminalisation of sex workers or their clients negates the right to individual self-determination, autonomy and agency.

Human rights bodies have called for the decriminalisation of sex work. They argue that the Nordic model of criminalising clients of sex workers raises serious concerns because it drives sex work further underground into the hands of criminals, increases societal disapproval, increases stigma against sex workers, and we know all about stigma in Irish society. We know the way gay people and Travellers were stigmatised historically. There are many out groups in Irish society. Sex workers are one of those out groups. If we criminalise the buyers of sexual services it means this group will be stigmatised, they are sitting ducks and it makes them targets of people who want to beat up or murder sex workers or treat them in a violent manner.

We know that the criminalisation of sex work has not worked in Sweden. We know that trafficking and prostitution still exist in Sweden but it has been driven further underground. That has happened in Norway also. The stigma around sex work, societal disapproval and violence against sex workers have increased. The sex workers are afraid to report it to the police or to draw attention to themselves, in other words, they are now a more socially excluded group than they were before the law was enacted.

We have a number of recommendations, including that the Government should not introduce a law that would criminalise the buyers of sexual services. Such a law as seen in Sweden and Norway has negative consequences for sex workers. We also recommend that the law be amended to exempt premises shared by sex workers, with no third party involvement, from the definition of a brothel to ensure that sex workers can work together to increase their safety; and that a new non-judgmental sex work project should be established. If the Government is serious about supporting and protecting sex workers it should establish a new sex worker project, in collaboration with sex workers, that would address their physical and psychological health and welfare needs. We also recommend that the Garda should work in partnership with local drug and specialist sex work agencies to develop strategies to reduce the risk of violence against sex workers; that the Garda would receive training in this area and that they be resourced to introduce an Ugly Mugs scheme in cities where there is known commercial sexual activity similar to what has taken place in Liverpool, in Merseyside; that all current and future policy and research be conducted with sex workers from across the range of opinion - those who wish to exit to those who intend to remain in this work; and that crimes against sex workers should be categorised as hate crimes.

I thank Dr. Whitaker for adhering to the time allotted. I call Ms Lucy Smith who will have five minutes.

Ms Lucy Smith is a sex worker safety scheme. The scheme improves the safety of sex workers and reduces crime committed against sex workers by bringing sex workers together to share information with each other about potential dangers. It is a free service available to all sex workers. It started out on the website and last year it became its own organisation, Safe IQ Limited.

How it works is that when a sex worker encounters a bad person or other danger, they report it to Ugly Mugs. Each incident reported is reviewed and a warning to all sex workers is then published. This scheme enables sex workers to be aware, both of specific offenders and of more general offending trends, which greatly improves their safety. It is a very successful scheme and that is because we have a great community of sex workers in Ireland. Sex workers do not agree about everything but when it comes to safety, sex workers in Ireland really support each other. This is vital in Ireland, as there are no other supports.

Last year the Taoiseach stood in this building and delivered an historic State apology to the so called "fallen women" incarcerated in Magdalene laundries but that was an apology for the "innocent" women imprisoned alongside sex workers, the unmarried mothers, the girls suspected of promiscuity. For sex workers, nothing has changed. The very same religious orders that ran the Magdalene laundries continue to dominate over sex workers today and the State, the media and the NGO sector all collude in that situation continuing on as is.

Ugly Mugs is highly used by sex workers. More than 4,500 incidents have been reported to date, and more than 60,000 discussion posts or comments on incidents have been made by sex workers. About half of reported incidents are crimes. We record both crimes and other incidents that may not be crimes but which sex workers define as abuse. Crimes include threats, robberies, assaults and rapes. Sex work is not inherently abusive. Currently most sex workers in Ireland are independent. Most clients are not abusive in any way to sex workers. It is not normal for sex workers to experience serious abuse but some sex workers do encounter serious abuse in the course of their work. The reason for this is the stigma around sex work. Ireland is a very hateful country towards sex workers and that has very damaging consequences.

It is also the result of bad laws. Sex work is made different to other work by laws which deliberately make it dangerous. Our brothel laws, which force sex workers to be lone workers, are the most potent example. Furthermore, we have a situation whereby sex workers feel unable to engage with the Garda and many offenders recognise this as a decreased risk of any consequences to their offending if they target sex workers. Only approximately 2% of sex workers who are victims of crime are going to the Garda at the moment and it has got far worse in recent years. The level of hate is up significantly in recent years and the level of arrests and prosecutions of sex workers is significantly up in recent years as well.

There is much we could do to prevent violence and abuse of sex workers but none of it is being done. Currently it is like there are two worlds: there is the real world of sex workers and then there is the fantasy world created by Turn Off the Red Light and they are so different it is like black and white. This committee did not consider the safety of sex workers at all during its prostitution consultation. As a result the committee recommended numerous new bad laws. There has been no decriminalisation of sex workers whatsoever despite the promises of decriminalisation. There is criminalisation of clients which is forcing sex workers underground even more. There are new laws against landlords to try to render sex workers homeless. We have seen the shut-down of telephones used by sex workers and the prosecution as paedophiles of anyone who uses sex work websites.

We have good community support networks within the sex work community and, whatever comes, sex workers will try to support each other to keep safe. However, the existing situation under which the State is only serving to cause harm to sex workers is altogether wrong.

I call on the committee to act to stop the extensive abuse of sex workers and sex trafficking victims by the media. I note that at the last hearings the committee asked Mr. Maguire of RTE what became of the group of-----

I would prefer it if you did not name people.

Ms Lucy Smith

The committee asked about a group of women who featured in an RTE documentary and what had become of them. There was no information given as to what had become of them. What had become of those women at that point was that they had been stalked by the Sunday World. Photographs of them in an undressed state had been taken pervertedly. One lady's breast was on the front page of the Sunday World one week. They were being prosecuted North and South for brothel-keeping. That is what became of them but we never hear the truth of what becomes of these people.

There is no independent research into sex work in Ireland. All the independent research has come straight from the Magdalen laundry orders and it is this which allows the completely false picture of sex work to persist. All the statistics have been discredited, including the statistic of an average age of 14 years. The author of the study from which that statistic was used, Professor Melrose, has stated that it has been wrongly used by Turn Off the Red Light. There have been wild claims about child prostitution. The Minister for Justice and Equality has clarified that these statistics do not relate to children in prostitution.

We must improve policing. We must have Garda sex work liaison officers. We must examine good practice with regard to sex work policing. Policing is decidedly important in combatting abuse within the sex industry and sex trafficking. We should be examining the Merseyside model. We need to stop giving all the State funding for support to sex workers and sex trafficking victims to Ruhama. The Magdalen laundries are very wealthy and they do not need this money.

Please do not identify organisations. At the start I referred to not naming organisations and entities by name.

Ms Lucy Smith

The money could go to organisations that provide support services to people selling sex. Many people are being incredibly selfish when it comes to the issue of sex work and siding with a popular cause. Sex workers want to be safe and they deserve to be safe. We should end this hate and allow them to be safe. I apologise for breaching the naming rules. As I provided the script to the committee beforehand I thought someone would have pointed out to me if there was something wrong in what I had said.

Thank you for staying within the time and for your contribution. I pointed out the position when I made a statement at the beginning. The position was also in the letter of invitation sent to everyone here.

Could I ask-----

If you do not mind, I want to continue-----

It is a technical point I wish to address to yourself.

Please proceed with the point of order, briefly.

In the committees with which I have been involved it is illegal to name individuals but not organisations. Is it illegal to name organisations here?

We have it here as a parliamentary procedure.

Thank you for the clarification.

It is a condition of attendance as well. Ms Felicity Kennedy from the Women's Therapy Centre is next but there is a vote in the Seanad. We will suspend for a few minutes until the vote is over because many Senators are present.

Sitting suspended at 3.15 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

We will resume in public session for a few moments. The Seanad is having a second vote on the same issue, and there may be a third vote yet. I am aware that people have been sitting here for a quite a while, but I propose that we suspend again until 3.45 p.m. I am sorry about this, but it is completely out of our hands.

Sitting suspended at 3.30 p.m. and resumed at 3.45 p.m.

We will resume in public session. I apologise for the delay, but I felt it was better that people be allowed stretch their legs for a while rather than sit here for a long period of time. I call Ms Kennedy from the Women's Therapy Centre. You have five minutes to make your presentation.

Ms Felicity Kennedy

I thank the committee for the invitation to talk about the work of the Women's Therapy Centre. My name is Felicity Kennedy. I am CEO of the centre and I am also speaking somewhat as a practitioner, because I am a psychologist and a counsellor.

The Women's Therapy Centre was formed six years ago. We currently have 43 clients coming to us and 47 clients on a waiting list. We were formed as a therapy centre for women, but what quickly began to happen was that women who had experienced and were recovering from experiences of domestic violence were coming to us. At the moment, one third of those who come to us are referred by the domestic violence agencies, which are the agencies that provide support in the immediacy of the trauma of abuse. Another third of our clients come to us via our website or through word of mouth, and they come for the same reason, which is to recover and go through psychotherapy - a kind of stage of safety, mourning and recovery from the experiences of abuse. At this stage, six years later, we have developed a specialist knowledge on how to work with survivors of the trauma of domestic violence. A mental health service like ours, which has developed a specialist knowledge, is a final part of a continuum of care in looking after those who have experienced domestic abuse.

It is important to stress that those who do this work and who do the psychotherapy work need to have a specialist knowledge. Without a specialist knowledge, there is a danger that people can be re-traumatised. That comes up again and again in the research, and is known as the second trauma. We view domestic violence and the impact of domestic violence as being what is increasingly called complex trauma. This means that if somebody is experiencing the trauma of ongoing sexual abuse, such as physical assaults, psychological traumas and emotional traumas, and these are repeated by an abuser whose intent is to annihilate the self of the victim, then the psychological consequences are complex.

Within the past 20 years, the phrase "borderline personality disorder" has been disappearing and the term "complex trauma" is replacing it in order to work with the complexities of the symptoms people experience. In doing the work, therapists need to understand not just the intent of the abuser and the intent of coercive abuse, which is to get into the head of the victim, but they need to understand the symptoms of trauma and the symptoms of complex trauma, and to be able to work with people who have lost trust in themselves, lost trust in their ability to judge reality and lost trust in relationships. Those of us who do this work need to be able to listen to stories that are beyond human understanding or human experience. We listen to stories of torture, extreme abuse, the abuse of children, the abuse of old people and we must hear the stories and attend to them without flinching or without showing any shadow of anything other than empathy and understanding. We must be able to provide a relationship. We hear therapists talk about the therapeutic relationship. The relationship in this context is vital and I argue for long-term therapy services because people have lost trust in relationships. Through the therapeutic relationship, healing happens and therefore time must be given to ensure the relationship becomes a trusting one.

Part of the work is that we must watch ourselves that we do not become vicariously traumatised. That involves taking on the trauma of others and we must attend to ourselves. In summary, I call for a mental health service that is a final part of a continuum of care and that it is a specialised service. If we can reach women, we reach children and change communities.

Ms Siobhan Barron

I am grateful to be here on behalf of the National Disability Authority, NDA, to discuss the issue of domestic and sexual violence and, in particular, to allow for a focus on the issues in respect of people with disability. The NDA is an independent statutory body with responsibility for providing information and advice to the Minister that is relevant to the lives of persons with disabilities and promoting universal design in Ireland. As outlined in the written submission to the joint committee, the NDA has undertaken research in the area of abuse and violence against people with disabilities. We are a member of the national steering committee on violence against women, chaired by the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, COSC. The NDA wishes to highlight the following points on domestic and sexual violence against people with disabilities, drawing on NDA work to date. There is a considerable body of evidence showing that, people with disabilities are at a higher risk of violence and abuse compared to others, and are more likely than others to have experienced multiple incidents of sexual violence. Irish data shows that those with severely hampering disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to have experienced domestic and violent abuse than other adults. Raising awareness and education about domestic violence and related issues are critical for improving the knowledge levels of people with disabilities considered most at risk in order to empower them in relationships while at the same time protecting them from violence and abuse. Disclosure of abuse may be particularly difficult for persons with disabilities, especially where they are dependent on care and may feel less comfortable complaining, may have little contact with others or may have difficulty communicating. Often, they feel they will not be taken seriously.

In line with Government policy, as people with disabilities move out of institutions to living in the community, there is a need for a renewed focus on appropriate supports and protection in mainstream settings to prevent domestic and sexual violence against them, which is why we are delighted the committee has included disability in the discussion. Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 needs to be reformed to widen the definition of what constitutes a sexual offence and to give clarity on consensual sexual relations between vulnerable adults where they have the capacity to consent to sexual relations. Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, commits state parties to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other measures to protect persons with disabilities, within and outside the home, from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse. On ratifying the convention, Ireland will be required to fulfil this requirement.

We are pleased the focus of discussion is on solutions to address the issues raised. As an advisory body, the NDA has undertaken research and has funded some of the research members heard about this morning. The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland undertook research on sexual violence against persons with disabilities and specific barriers to disclosure. Barriers include fear of being blamed, a fear of not being believed or a fear of the legal process, with almost 25% fearing loss of support if they come forward. We also funded research by the School of Applied Social Studies and the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in University College Cork, which shows areas of the criminal justice system that need to be improved so that they are accessible to persons with disabilities and to ensure an understanding of disability. The NDA continues to engage with other relevant bodies, as appropriate, to guide them on many of the issues that arise, including our engagement with COSC and those in the justice system generally in respect of access and awareness. I thank committee members for their attention and I look forward to the discussion.

Ms Fiona Hurley

I thank the Chairman and the committee for inviting us to present here today. Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, is a founding member of the domestic violence coalition, on whose behalf the Immigrant Council of Ireland presented last week, and we fully support and echo the recommendations made. We welcome the opportunity to present to the committee on some additional points raised in our submission based on our 13 years of experience providing one-to-one support and advice to migrants on immigration-related issues. Nasc is a non-governmental organisation working for an integrated society based on the principles of human rights, social justice and equality. Nasc, which is the Irish word for link, works to link migrants to their rights through protecting human rights, promoting integration and campaigning for change. Nasc provides immigration advice and advocacy to 1,000 migrants annually.

Any person experiencing domestic violence can encounter difficulties in reporting incidents and in accessing support services and remedies. Immigrants can face additional barriers, including language difficulties, social isolation, racism or discrimination, limited access to income or independence, uncertain immigration status and lack of knowledge regarding available supports or remedies. These were discussed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland at hearings last week and we endorse the recommendations made. We also have some recommendations of our own.

Nasc has provided advocacy and support to 92 migrant victims of domestic violence since 2011, including on immigration and social welfare issues. In 2012, Nasc co-authored a ground-breaking report on migrant access to social protection,entitled "Person or Number? Issues Faced by Migrants Accessing Social Protection". Subsequently, the Department of Social Protection committed to re-examining access to social welfare in the cases of migrants affected by domestic violence. Nasc is a lead organisation in the migrant consultative forum established by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, in the wake of the report, which regularly meets with the Department of Social Protection. Nasc would like to see a similar commitment from the Department of Justice and Equality to engage with migrant NGOs and other interested parties on policies impacting on migrant communities. In addition, Nasc recommends co-ordination between the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Social Protection in developing policies and regulations that protect migrant victims of domestic violence.

In our experience, migrant victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable when making a report to the Garda Síochána. On top of the trauma of experiencing domestic violence, there may be language and cultural barriers as well as concerns about immigration status. We are concerned that the Garda Síochána is not fully cognisant of the particular issues that impact migrant victims and the specific needs they may have in seeking out the Garda Síochána.

According to Department of Justice and Equality guidelines from the INIS, migrant victims of domestic violence whose residency is dependent on that of a violent partner can apply to gain independent residency.

When a migrant victim of domestic violence is making an application to the Minister of Justice and Equality to seek independent residency permission, there are several types of formal documents that can aid in his or her case, including a Garda report; barring, safety or protection orders; or even proof that the Garda has been contacted in regard to a violent incident. We know that migrant victims seeking to apply for independent residency are having difficulties accessing the necessary Garda documentation to include in their applications, and are being told the Garda cannot provide this information. We recommend compassionate, culturally sensitive and timely treatment of a particularly marginalised category of people going through an extremely difficult time.

It is essential that An Garda Síochána devises a policy to correspond to the new guidelines so that victims of domestic violence can produce the necessary documentation to the Department of Justice and Equality to secure independent residency. We have dealt with a case that illustrates this. A non-EEA woman whose residency was dependent on that of her partner presented to Nasc as a victim of domestic violence. We assisted her to go down to the Garda station to make a report about the domestic violence, but the gardaí would not take the report and directed her to the family law court. She went to the family law court the following morning, with a person from Nasc. She was turned away because her English language was not of a sufficient standard to go before the court. She called a friend, but her friend's language was not of a sufficient standard either. This woman who had nothing but the clothes on her back had to try to provide a professional translator. By that stage she had made two serious attempts to access her domestic violence remedies.

Finally, we recommend that any reform to the domestic violence legislation be equality proofed, and reflect the needs of particularly vulnerable categories of people, including migrant women and children. Ireland has experienced a demographic shift since the introduction of the 1997 Act, and we ask that any reforms made to that legislation would reflect that shift and also the inter-sectionality of barriers migrant victims can experience. Migrant victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable when presenting at the court for protection, as I have just explained. When they look for barring, safety or protection orders, they face barriers if they do not speak English. Unlike in criminal proceedings, there is no requirement for the court to provide translation services when a woman is seeking a protection or safety order. We recommend that any reform to the domestic violence legislation would include this as a bare minimum.

I thank the members of the joint committee for this opportunity to present.

Ms Hurley got a great many points covered in the five minutes. I now call Ms Rita Harling.

Ms Rita Harling

On behalf of the Do or Die Foundation I thank the Chairman and members for allowing us to make a presentation today. We are a support group for families who are experiencing domestic violence in the home. All genders can avail of our service.

Domestic violence is a serious attack on a person's basic human rights, be they male or female. This act of cruelty is most often not reported as it is still taboo. It is still not recognised as a crime in our State. This is unacceptable. Domestic violence can lead to premature death and in some cases serious mental health issues. The act of domestic violence does not only affect the victim but often the victim's children also, leaving them with mental scars and serious trust and relationship issues as they become adults. Sadly some of them carry the same cruelty with them. Domestic violence victims live their daily lives in fear for months, years and for some, decades.

I have heard accounts of some unbelievable cases in which victims have been subjected to such cruelty that their injuries were broken jaws, broken ribs, broken limbs, stabbings and strangulation. Some had their hair pulled, leaving them with bald patches, others lost their teeth, others were scarred by cigarettes being stubbed out on their skin. The list goes on. In the times in which we live these acts are bordering on the barbaric. Statistics show at least one in four females will experience some level of domestic violence through their adult life. It leaves the victim in a very life threatening situation. This has proved to be a sad time for victims. It has to end. Until a person has lived through the experience of domestic violence, one will never understand the rules that apply to it.

We at the Do or Die Foundation are urging the Government to implement a domestic violence abusers register. In a time of great financial unrest it is vital that the register exists in order to protect families. Financial pressure will also add to the rise in report of domestic violence stretching the resources of An Garda Síochána. At present the Do or Die Foundation is liaising with local police stations to offer support if the Garda is presented with a victim of domestic abuse. This will be done through a referral process and we are offering emotional support. It has been reported that 70% of calls to Garda stations in the Dublin area originate in domestic violence. Garda resources are being stretched to the limit, leaving other serious crime issues that need policing neglected.

We at the Do or Die Foundation are urging the Government to implement a domestic violence register that will protect the vulnerable as well as giving the Garda Síochána more authority when faced with an incident of domestic violence. We understand the Government must abide by EU regulation and our intent is not to scare monger the general public. Other EU countries have registers that work effectively. In 2009, the police force in the UK requested such a register and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme was implemented last year. It is also known as "Claire's Law" after the vigorous campaigning by Michael Brown, the father of Claire Wood who was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton in 2009. This scheme operates in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottingham and Gwent. It has since proved to be successful with cases now coming before the court this summer. Although it received criticism from other organisations, there is significant confidence that in the foreseeable future it will apply throughout the UK. In surveys taken three quarters of victims of domestic violence interviewed, stated they would have left a relationship sooner had they know about the previous history of a violent partner. A live register can prevent tragedies. I ask the Government to accept our challenge.

In May 2013, the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny took part and supported "The Man Up Campaign" in County Mayo. He stated that "I'm one for reality and truth". The truth is that domestic violence is at an epidemic level and will rise by approximately 15% every year the economic situation deteriorates. Domestic violence costs millions of euro each year and puts a strain on other services such as medical, Garda and the court.

In March 2012, the Irish officials met at the UN Human Rights Council and participated in the Council of Europe Convention on violence against women and domestic violence. That was almost two years ago and Ireland is one of the very few countries that has yet to sign the relevant treaty. What is the reason for the delay? The treaty is designed to protect each country's people.

We at the Do or Die Foundation also believe that the education of our younger generations is vital in explaining the severity of domestic abuse and that it is a crime. Our young people are our future. We lead by example. The Do or Die Foundation and its volunteers have put together a programme aimed at educating young people at second level. We are also willing to talk to other support groups on this issue. Educating and making people aware that this is a crime and will be treated as a crime is vital. It is also vital the perpetrator is aware that his or her violent history is available to the public if he or she is suspected of carrying out this crime on another person. The register would act as a deterrent.

If someone has a bad credit history, he or she will appear on the Irish Credit Bureau's database. If someone has a history of causing domestic abuse, where can one find that information? Nowhere.

Thank you, Ms Harling.

Ms Rita Harling

I still have some other points.

The witness has 30 seconds. I ask her to be brief.

Ms Rita Harling

The Do or Die Foundation has an interest in how other countries deal with cases of domestic violence. I have referred already to the pilot scheme of Claire's Law, which operates in the UK. The Do or Die Foundation has also looked to what applies in Manhattan for other answers. My colleague, Ms Priscilla Grainger was invited to visit the Family Justice Centre in Manhattan. She was met by the chief commissioner of domestic violence, Ms Kathleen O'Reilly. Since her appointment as commissioner, there has been a decrease of 40% in the incidence of domestic violence in Manhattan. In the case of the murder of females by past or present intimate partners, the Manhattan area has a specific police unit that deals only with domestic violence cases. They are very proactive in this area and keep close involvement with victims of domestic violence with follow up home visits, which act as a deterrent. In the US, if the police force receive a call for help from a victim of domestic violence, the officers immediately make an arrest after assessing the situation without intervention or contribution of evidence by the victim.

I must stop Ms Harling. I thank her for her excellent presentation. We now come to the question and answer session. The practice that has developed over time is that a member asks a question, which is then answered. Nobody makes long speeches as members have an opportunity to make them in the Dáil or Seanad Chamber. We try to elicit information at committee meetings. Answers should be concise and focused on the question.

I will give each Member approximately five minutes to ask initial questions. If they want to revert subsequently, we can be a little bit flexible, but we want to finish in half an hour or thereabouts.

I thank our guests for attending. I appreciate their voicing their opinions on the matter. I will ask four questions.

I will start with Laura. I hope she will forgive me, as I cannot see her surname. She will have to allow me to call her just Laura. Like a number of contributors, she stated that the habitual residence condition, HRC, was an issue. How can the problem be overcome, not only from the perspective of those groups seeking to protect women and men in domestic violence scenarios, but also in the sense of protecting the integrity of the immigration services, given that we would be providing a particular right to one over another?

Ms Laura Pohjolainen

By providing an exception in the habitual residence condition. Often, people who have experienced domestic or sexual violence are not taken seriously. Given the assumption that people will take advantage of an exemption to the HRC, clear guidelines should be set on how to identify victims of domestic and sexual violence. For example, people in Traveller and Roma communities have a significant difficulty in seeking help, accessing services and identifying themselves as victims. Clear guidelines on how to identify victims should be provided to people who work in the system. Many organisations and projects that work with women who are also affected by the HRC. An interagency approach would be key.

We need more time to discuss the matter and we might revert to it when we have some time. Ms Counihan commented on the ability of the accused to cross-examine.

Ms Caroline Counihan


That would pose a difficulty if, for example, the accused was representing himself or herself. How could this difficulty be overcome?

Ms Caroline Counihan

There are two elements to this. In the current system, there is no question that the primacy of the rights and interests of the accused must be properly represented before the court. However, the complainant, victim or prosecution witness also has rights. The fact that the accused’s rights have primacy does not mean the victim or witness has absolutely no rights. It would pose a real risk of serious harm and retraumatisation if such a cross-examination were allowed. It is a question of the lesser of two evils.

This is a special situation, in that the questions to be asked will be intimate and the potential for abuse is considerable. I am not just referring to instant abuse, but also a longer-term retraumatisation and damage. I am not saying someone should not be represented, as an accused person should always be represented.

There could be a delay in access to justice as well. For example, court dates would have a bearing when the situation is being revisited, given that there are sometimes several months or years in the difference. I see where Ms Counihan is coming from, but I can also see the stumbling block.

Ms Caroline Counihan

The only other thing I would add, Deputy, is that there is now European jurisprudence. As we all know, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights talks about the right of the accused to a fair trial, fair procedures and all the rest which is, essentially, the right to due process. That is very like our own right under Article 38 of the Constitution. Nevertheless the European Court of Human Rights or the European Court - I forget which - said that provided the interests of the accused are properly represented, there are situations where it is in the interests of justice that personal cross-examination should not be allowed. It is time to examine the matter again.

Does Deputy Farrell have two more questions?

I ask the Deputy to be as brief as possible.

My next question is for Ms O'Malley-Dunlop who mentioned the memorandum of understanding with regard to therapy notes. She may not be able to answer my question today but perhaps she will send me information on the matter. I am interested in reviewing that particular aspect of her contribution regarding the accessibility of such notes and putting in place a more robust regime that would allow the Rape Crisis Network and other organisations, present and not present, to protect the interested parties. I also want to know about their ability to offer assistance without fear of information being compromised or used against them. Her views on the matter would be appreciated.

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

I accompanied our submission with the copy of the memorandum of understanding, so it is available.

Please forgive me, I am afraid I did not see it.

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

I will respond to the Deputy's question on the memorandum of understanding. If a defendant sacks their legal team, the notes are given back to the prosecution until such time as the defendant employs another defence team. In that particular instance the defendant cannot cross-examine the complainant on the content of the notes without a team. The matter is addressed in the memorandum of understanding, but a lot more can be done.

My last question is for Ms Harling who contributed last. I thank her for her comments. With regard to the expertise available by first responders or first response units, whether that is the Garda, paramedics, social workers or whatever, in terms of the training they may have and their ability to respond in an appropriate manner, how significant is the training that is provided? Does Ms Harling's organisation, as a provider, see room for improvement? I am sure she does but I ask her to be specific.

Ms Rita Harling

In Manhattan there is a division that deals totally with domestic violence issues and all its personnel are specifically trained in that area. Gardaí are dragged from pillar to post and are not trained. Perhaps one or two gardaí in a certain division have received training about domestic violence but not them all. In many cases women who are victims of domestic violence do not want to speak to a man even though he is a member of the Garda Síochána. Perhaps women in a certain division of local police stations could be trained in some way to deal with specifics. Garda stations have referred people to my organisation and we go through the emotional stuff with those people. We can direct them towards Dolphin House, provide court accompaniment and all that type of thing. Gardaí have come to us because they do not know what steps to take. There is not enough training and there are too many-----

Training of the gardaí is important. I thank Ms Harling.

I am finished for the moment.

I thank all of the presenters for their very useful contributions which have followed the very powerful contributions that were made here last week. I noticed some common themes such as the need to ratify and sign the Istanbul Convention, the habitual residence condition and how homelessness is linked to the issue.

The last point made by Ms Harling referred to training for gardaí which takes up the point made by Senator Mulcahy last week that gardaí need to be more pro-arrest in their approach to domestic violence and remove the perpetrator. We might deal with this issue.

I want to focus on some of the newer points that were made today and which we did not hear last week, particularly on sexual violence and rape. Ms O'Malley-Dunlop and Ms Counihan have both put forward detailed proposals for statutory change concerning rape and other sexual offence laws. What do they think would be the single most important change to tackle this real problem of attrition rates in sex offence cases? The definition of "consent" is one element, but is there a more practical issue? If so, what is the single biggest change that could tackle the difficulty?

I will ask Ms Counihan to comment as briefly and concisely as she can.

Ms Caroline Counihan

I will try to be as concise as possible. The whole thing concerns good process from beginning to end. Sometimes that might involve statutory change, as Ms O'Malley-Dunlop mentioned, concerning counselling records. My view would certainly be that this is the best way to deal with it. Revising the other sexual experience provisions would be another example.

It is enormously important for a victim to deal with well trained people. These include gardaí, sexual assault treatment unit personnel, staff of the Rape Crisis Centre, prosecution lawyers in the DPP's office and prosecution advocates who have specific training relevant to how this trauma impacts on victims of rape and sexual assault. I completely support the training of judges, which is a critical element. Various professions do receive training along those lines, but I would plead for some specialist input from experienced rape crisis staff. They are on the front line, dealing with survivors every day and are thus familiar with the issues. That is a vital component in this regard.

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

I concur with everything Ms Counihan has said but, in addition, we should have specialist judges and barristers. Judges and barristers must be aware of attitudes in society because when one appears before a jury of one's peers, they will bring to bear all the attitudes of society. A specialist judge may direct a jury and refer to those attitudes, so education is an ongoing thing. I support everything that Ms Counihan said and we do need changes in the law. I welcome the proposal for a sexual offences Bill to cover all of the law in this area so that it will not be all over the place.

This work will feed into that. Does Senator Bacik have another question?

Yes. One other issue, which was not raised last week, concerned women engaged in prostitution. Ms Benson has made a presentation on this matter for Ruhama. The report of the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality deals with the central issue in Ms Benson's submission, that prostitution is a form of violence, and hence our recommendation that we change the law and adopt the Swedish approach. I want to ask Ms Benson, and also the representative of Ugly Mugs, how violence specifically directed at women engaged in prostitution is being tackled. In other words, I am referring to violence beyond the act of prostitution or the sale of sex itself. How can that issue be best approached? Is it by working alongside and co-operating with the Garda? I know, for instance, that Ruhama has a sensitive way of ensuring that incidents are reported to gardaí without necessarily disclosing details about clients.

Ms Smith of Ugly Mugs said the majority of women engaged in prostitution that she knows of are independent. That is against what we found in last year's hearings by the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. Ugly Mugs is clearly at a different level from other organisations that engage with gardaí but if one is talking about developing an app, where does the funding for that come from?

Ms Sarah Benson

We are engaged in a number of initiatives supporting those in prostitution to report crimes. One concerns on-street prostitution whereby we collaborate with the two other health services on the street in conjunction with the main Garda stations. Harcourt Terrace has closed, so they are the Bridewell, Pearse Street and Donnybrook. We facilitate reports of crimes in respect of such offences. A number of years ago, we reviewed the possibility of expanding that to encompass the UK approach. At that time, we were told there were constitutional issues over carrying it through. In addition, it would be different from the legal situation in the UK as regards facilitating a witness ad litem mechanism for women.

As regards the indoor sex trade, we are currently developing a pilot initiative with the Dublin Metropolitan Garda Síochána, which we hope to roll out with the establishment of liaison gardaí for women in prostitution. This will be a proactive referral mechanism through welfare checks both to ourselves and the women's health service with which we collaborate on awareness of support services available, including free sexual health services. The objective is to build trust as opposed to going in on raid situations.

We also do training with the Garda Síochána in conjunction with front-line gardaí from the organised prostitution unit. That training stresses the objective of approaching with a degree of sensitivity and sensibility those who are in prostitution, as opposed to going in and simply arresting and charging them. That training programme has had the support of the Assistant Garda Commissioner for the last three years and is slowly reaching out. We hope to extend the training to senior gardaí.

Individual cases are still problematic because some women may not disclose incidents of violence due to their immigration status and other external factors, as well as fear, including a fear of not being believed. Therefore, one of our approaches, and that of the women's health service, is to support, encourage and empower women to report crimes. Some women have been extremely courageous in doing so and we support them through the court process. However, we consider there is still more to be done and so we are being proactive in that regard.

Ms Lucy Smith

Ugly Mugs started four and a half years ago, initially under the umbrella of the Escort Ireland website. Last year, I took it on as a separate company. It does not have any funding whatsoever, nor does it have an office or staff. It is a web service, so it is not expensive to run. The community provides support so when sex workers are attacked, other sex workers will support them. It is a community initiative whereby everybody supports each other through a network. Ugly Mugs does not provide actual support; it just facilitates people who have problems and connects them with other sex workers they can talk to, as well as other sources of support.

When we ask them, the single biggest thing that sex workers want is a friendly police service, including Garda liaison officers. The other single biggest concern is the message going out that it is okay to abuse sex workers, they are all trafficked so they have to do whatever one wants, and it is fine to rape them. That message is continually sent out in the media but we need to stop it. We need to send the opposite message, that it is not okay to abuse sex workers. Even though there are many reasons that sex workers do not engage with gardaí, the biggest one is the stigma and fear that they may be judged by gardaí, pursued by the media, and have anti-sex work organisations intruding into their lives.

While the police service is the main concern, we would like to see support services for sex workers. At the moment, the main support services for sex workers are the UK ones that provide phone support. Some of the UK organisations do provide phone support to Irish sex workers, but there is basically no support here. That situation is completely undesirable and will allow abuse and crime to thrive because there is nowhere for sex workers to go for help. Many sex workers would like to have a friendly garda to whom they could talk when they experience problems. When we ask them, they continually state that they want all of these different support services, but they do not exist at all.

I thank all the witnesses who have come in today.

I have a couple of questions about domestic physical assault in the home, which was the issue I raised last week. The type of information I would like to see on how to deal with this is similar to that seen in Manhattan, and the witnesses mentioned Manchester and Nottingham. I would like the committee to write to the groups who were before us last week to ask them to tell us where we should be looking, rather than us trying to reinvent the wheel here.

We are talking about best practice in different parts of the world. Does Ms Harling want to come back in on that?

Ms Rita Harling

We tried to get in touch with the Home Office in the UK to see if we could get more information on this. It was a pilot scheme that was brought in with the Clare's Law register, but it has been so successful that they are going to roll it out throughout the UK. This means it is working, which is because it gives security. I am a mother and I would like to know that if I thought my daughter was in an abusive relationship, I could go and have a look at the background of this guy she is possibly going to end up marrying, and who is probably going to end up fatally inuring her. I would like to know that information and I have a right to know that information, as a parent.

The groups here today and the groups who were here last week could outline the different jurisdictions where they have seen this in operation. I would not support violence against anyone, but I believe we have a very specific problem in this country. I lay a pound to a penny that 1,000 more assaults have taken place since last week, so there is an urgency with regard to carving this one out and dealing with it specifically, because I do not believe we will get a global solution too quickly.

That is a good way of looking at it. Again, the Senator is absolutely correct. If people want a follow-up from these meetings with further suggestions or thoughts, as the Senator has suggested, they should feel free to do that. This will also feed into the Government's strategy. I call Senator Zappone.

I thank the witnesses for their very helpful presentations. As Senator Bacik said, several themes came up in our earlier presentations and I will focus on a couple in particular. Ms Mulcahy identified as a potential solution employer-union policies to treat domestic abuse seriously and identify different aspects of that. Are there any models of good practice available and has any of that been developed?

Ms Maire Mulcahy

Very few, although there are one or two. I was just saying to my colleague that I worked for a trade union for many years and it was very rare to have someone ring to seek assistance, so there is obviously still a terrible shame about seeking the assistance of agencies. As I said, there are one or two. We can supply the committee with models that are in force in the workplace, if members are interested.

That would be helpful.

Has the Senator another question?

Ms Kennedy clearly outlined a specialist mental health service and put forward the suggestion to us that this is required as another solution in terms of domestic abuse. She said the Women's Therapy Centre had developed one. Are there other examples or models in terms of services provided by others? Would the Women's Therapy Centre have developed a unique service in that regard?

Ms Felicity Kennedy

While I do not wish to sound arrogant, in some ways ours is quite unique. I went to a conference last year in Harvard dealing with psychotherapy and women. Of course, I went to learn but part of what I came away with was a sense of pride in what we are doing here. There is a lot of work in the United States and the UK in terms of understanding complex trauma because a lot of the men, and some women, of course, have been traumatised in the wars. There is a tradition in the United States, from Vietnam, of looking at the trauma. What we are doing here is looking more at women's trauma and relational trauma, and setting up, I think, quite a unique model of working with women recovering.

Dr. Whitaker in her conclusion suggested undertaking an independent ethical inquiry on the violence issue in terms of prostitution. Can she say a little more on what that would mean?

Dr. Teresa Whitaker

I simply believe we need more research in this area. It is ridiculous to be introducing a law when we do not really have enough research.

So that is not a different suggestion than extensive research. I just thought it sounded different.

Dr. Teresa Whitaker

People who are affected by law should have some input into how a law is made. Legislators are trying to introduce a law to criminalise the buyers of sexual services but they have not really entered into proper consultation with sex workers.

We want to keep on the issue of sexual and domestic violence.

Dr. Teresa Whitaker

Yes, that is part of the symbolic violence. The symbolic violence is that society is saying sex workers should not have a voice in making laws. Of course they should. That is a form of violence. Legislators are undermining a group of people who make their money in a certain way. They are moralising on it and they want to criminalise the buyers of sexual services. They want to take away their client base. What other group would they do that to?

I thank Ms Smith for her presentation. At one stage, she said violence comes only as a result of the stigma around sex work.

Ms Lucy Smith

Not only as a result of that. I would say the stigma is the main cause of it because we have seen it increase in the last couple of years, with the ongoing media campaigns against sex work. It is also caused by the laws. Sex workers are compelled to work alone in order to work legally, so they are prevented from working with a friend for safety. Therefore, it is due to bad laws as well as the stigma.

There is also the complete lack of any support for sex workers, so when a sex worker is a victim of a crime, they do not have any support organisation to go to or they do not feel able to go to the police. Most people who offend against sex workers are not actually clients or even people with any relation to the sex industry. It is often vigilantes and so forth and people are actually targeting sex workers because they are repeatedly getting the message in society that it is okay to do this. Therefore, I believe stigma is the biggest issue.

The Do or Die Foundation referred to an education programme for youth it has developed. Is that part of the written submission to us?

Ms Rita Harling

Yes, it is something we are very interested in doing. This needs to be addressed with young boys at an early age, and young girls too. Both sexes should know it is wrong. We have to consider that some of these children are seeing this in their homes, so it has to be dealt with as delicately as possible. We did an interview yesterday with DCU and we are giving a talk in UCD in September to educate younger groups that domestic violence in the home is actually a crime.

I thank the witnesses for coming in. It is very helpful to us in the work we are going to do following on from our consideration of all their presentations. I thank all the people who submitted but could not be here because, sincerely, we could not invite everyone in. I particularly thank the individuals who sent us in really heartfelt submissions. I feel it is important to acknowledge this.

I was interested in Ms Mulcahy's reference to the figures increasing, and the picture is quite stark. Does she have any evidence as to why this is or has she just collated the figures?

Ms Maire Mulcahy

I got those figures from a very helpful booklet, Violence Against Women: An Issue of Gender, published by the Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, the index of which references all the figures based on the research.

Ms Mulcahy referred to the MEND project. We had a great presentation last week from a project in the south east. Is that project operating across the country or is it just in particular areas where there are particular problems?

Ms Maire Mulcahy

It is limited at present but they hope to extend their funding. I know they go into schools and also engage with perpetrators.

However, that service is limited to the south east at present.

My next question is for Ms O'Malley-Dunlop and Ms Counihan. We are getting the message that the figures in respect of domestic violence are increasing. Is there any research into the reasons for this high incidence of domestic and sexual violence against women and children? If we know why it is happening, we can work to reduce and prevent it.

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

The most comprehensive research ever done in this country was the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland, SAVI, report, which was delivered in 2002. We are hoping a second SAVI report will be undertaken. This would provide us with proper comparative research and a great deal more information, including information as to why this is happening in our society. We have some understanding in that regard, but more is needed. A second SAVI report would be very valuable in terms of informing policy into the future.

Will Ms Counihan comment on the effectiveness of the various sexual assault treatment units, SATUs, across the country? Are they consistently good or is there a divergence of views regarding outcomes from people who present there?

Ms Caroline Counihan

There are seven SATUs in total. There is a national guidelines committee which includes representatives from all the rape crisis organisations, including ourselves and the DRCC. It is a fabulous committee and an example of inter-agency co-operation at its best. Over a period of close to ten years it has produced two sets of agreed guidelines. It takes its time in terms of working through whether proposals will work or not in practice and getting the views of representatives of the DPP's office, An Garda Síochána, the medical profession, SATU nurses and so on.

I have not heard of many complaints regarding the SATUs - perhaps one or two in the six years I have been in this job. As legal director, SATU services are not my direct responsibility across the network. Certainly, I have not heard of a problem.

To clarify, I was not suggesting there is a problem. I was merely seeking the benefit of Ms Counihan's experience, for which I thank her.

In regard to the impact of violence against immigrants, does Ms Hurley have figures indicating whether this is primarily happening in direct provision centres, for example, as opposed to being a problem among people who are legally here and living in communities? Is that type of information collated?

Ms Fiona Hurley

Not all of that information is collated and it is probably very difficult to gather. In our experience, immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence will often take years to come forward. In fact, I would categorise them as a silent oppressed minority. A particular difficulty is that they do not tend to interact with any service providers. They drop the children to school and go to the supermarket and that is largely it. They do not go to the places where they could access services. Even if they do attempt to do so, they face significant barriers. It is very difficult to collate any statistics around this issue.

Ms Pohjolainen mentioned that an integration strategy is critical for Roma and Traveller women. Will she elaborate on that?

Ms Laura Pohjolainen

I was referring generally to all women from minority groups who are living in Ireland, not just Traveller and Roma women. The vulnerability that arises from not being able to access services and protections leads to an exclusion from different aspects of society, such as not being linked into employment, not having economic independence, and not having access to education and knowledge about services and supports, perhaps because of illiteracy and language barriers, including in regard to accommodation and health issues.

The European Commission has recognised the Roma people as one of the most vulnerable ethnic groups in Europe. Ireland has developed its own national Traveller and Roma integration strategy, but it contains significant shortcomings. In fact, it meets only four of the 22 criteria. A comprehensive strategy would work to include Roma and Traveller women in society in a way that would ensure their economic independence and give them the knowledge to access services and protections.

As part of the work the committee is doing on prostitution and sex trafficking, we have received a number of representations arguing for a separation of the issue of trafficking from prostitution. On the other hand, people like Commissioner Malmström and the EU anti-trafficking co-ordinator, Myria Vassiliadou, have said the two issues are inextricably linked and must be tackled together in order to protect women and children across Europe and the world. Will Ms Benson comment on why it is being proposed that we separate the two issues rather than dealing with them together?

Ms Sarah Benson

There are differing perspectives on the approach that should be taken to the sex trade. Our approach is to contextualise the whole sex trade as one that is fundamentally predicated on inequality. We are part of an international network of front-line services working directly with people involved in prostitution, which includes organisations in India, Canada, Denmark, France and Germany. We are taking part in an event in New York which will highlight the fact that throughout the sex trade, in every country, women with the fewest opportunities are disproportionately represented. This include first nations women in Canada, women of the lowest caste in India and poor migrant women from ethic minority backgrounds, including Roman women, in Ireland.

Ruhama worked with more than 300 women last year, 80 of whom were suspected victims of trafficking. In the case of women who were not trafficked, in many instances they were operating out of the same locations as women who were trafficked. Prostitution is the cause of trafficking for sexual exploitation; it is where it happens. The International Labour Organisation's report shows that the larger the sex trade, the greater the number of victims of trafficking. Trafficked women are advertised in the same places and on the same websites as non-trafficked sex workers and are often located in the same places. In other words, in terms of how sex buyers access sex workers, whether trafficked or non-trafficked, it is very much the same.

The Commissioner with responsibility for trafficking has repeatedly stated that sex trafficking must be tackled in the context of prostitution. As I mentioned, the European Parliament has passed a resolution which confirms that all forms of prostitution are regarded as violence against women and human rights abuses within which trafficking occurs. Responses to combat trafficking must take that into account.

My last question is to Ms Smith. She mentioned that her organisation, which functions in a co-ordinating capacity, does not receive funding. If a person comes to her group who has been gravely assaulted and needs help, what happens then? Does Ugly Mugs refer the person to existing services? The Health Service Executive, for example, has a sexual health clinic on Baggot Street. We received a very detailed presentation from its management last year. Is that the type of service to which Ms Smith would refer people?

Ms Lucy Smith

We keep details of all the services to which people might possibly go after they come to us as the victim of a crime.

We first attend to their immediate needs, for example, where they need first aid. After we have addressed immediate safety concerns, we record details of the incident in the system to make sex workers aware of what has occurred. We then inform the person about the support options that are available. These are not really supports because possible sources of support view all prostitution as inherent violence and, therefore, do not distinguish between what a sex worker considers a violent attack and what occurs in a normal day's work. To that extent, there are essentially no support services available. We do not advise people not to attend support services and details of services are available. In our experience, however, a very small minority of people engaged in indoor sex work use the support services provided by the Health Service Executive.

Would Ugly Mugs report a crime to the Garda?

Ms Lucy Smith

No, in the United Kingdom the way the Ugly Mugs system works is that it has an ability to feed intelligence into the police database. When someone makes a report she can tick a box allowing details of the offender to be shared. This is then recorded in two police databases, one of which is a database of serious sexual offenders which is used for intelligence purposes, while the second is the north west regional hub, which is subsequently distributed to local police forces. The details recorded relate only to the offender, rather than the sex worker. The police will then contact Ugly Mugs in the UK and ask whether they can speak to the victim. This request may then be facilitated. Ugly Mugs in Ireland does not have a facility to feed information to the Garda. If such a facility were in place, we would use it.

Have criminal prosecutions been taken as a result of the Ugly Mugs system?

Ms Lucy Smith

Yes. The system has only been operating in the United Kingdom for approximately 18 months. I understand a series of 20 robberies in London was resolved and people prosecuted as a direct result of the system. Another case related to a serial sex offender was also solved. A number of positive justice outcomes have been achieved within the first nine months of the trial process, which was the pilot scheme.

Has the Deputy concluded her questions?

I welcome Senator Norris to the meeting.

This is my first visit to the committee's proceedings and I am very impressed. All of the witnesses speak from the heart and believe they are countering violence. My questions relate to prostitution.

I remind the Senator that the focus of our discussion is on violence.

Yes. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has a membership of hundreds of thousands. As a member of three trade unions, I was never consulted about the Turn Off the Red Light campaign. How did ICTU arrive at its decision to support the campaign? Did it engage in a consultation with members or was the decision taken at a high level? I ask because a recommendation has been made, notwithstanding a statement by the Swedish authorities eight years after the introduction of new laws on prostitution noting that it was not possible to give an unambiguous answer to the question of whether prostitution had increased or decreased in the meantime. To cite the relevant document, "At most, we can discern that street prostitution is slowly returning".

The Senator did not ask a question on violence. The joint committee has issued its report, to which we can return at a later meeting, but today's meeting is focused on violence.

It appears that there is considerable concern in Sweden that women are being exposed to violence as a result of this legislation on the basis that they are being displaced into areas where they are in danger, are less likely to have access to health services and are more susceptible to pimps. There is, therefore, a strong argument to be made in light of the fact that Sweden has not reported any success with its law.

Ms Maire Mulcahy

On how the Irish Congress of Trade Unions arrived at a decision, ICTU has an executive committee which is elected every two years. All unions feed their thoughts and proposals to their representatives on the executive committee. The committee came to its decision, having consulted various trade unions which had dealt with this particular issue. The Senator asked how ICTU arrived at its decision in this matter. That is the norm for making decisions.

It was a top-down decision. Ms Mulcahy's reply is very helpful.

I have a question for Ms Counihan because she is involved in legal matters. I listened with great interest to what she had to say. On the business of violence, trafficking and so forth, I return to the Swedish model. As a legal person, does Ms Counihan take into account that in the most recent survey, the Global Slavery Index, the Republic of Ireland scored significantly better than Sweden in terms of trafficking?

Ms Maire Mulcahy

I am not qualified to answer the Senator's question as I have not read the report. I have to put my hands up and admit I am not familiar with it.

I pointed out that the committee held lengthy hearings on prostitution at the request of the Minister for Justice and Equality who had, as Senator Norris is aware, initiated a review of prostitution law. The hearings specifically examined the issue of prostitution and investigated the Swedish approach. The Department held a conference attended by several members of the committee and representatives from different countries which take different approaches to prostitution. The joint committee subsequently made its recommendations. We have, therefore, interrogated the issue. The focus of today's proceedings - perhaps the rapporteur may clarify the position - is domestic violence and gender based or sexual violence. This is distinct from the issue of prostitution as violence, which the joint committee has considered and addressed.

Other speakers opened up the discussion by addressing the issue of prostitution.

The Senator asked a question. Does he have further questions?

Yes, I have a question for Dr. Whitaker in her role as an academic. A Swedish Government report, which includes significant elements about violence against women who engage in the sex trade, makes the following statement: "One starting point of this work has been that the purchase of sex services is to remain a criminal offence". As an academic, it seems an odd procedure that one would start with the answer and work one's backwards to confirm what one believes. Does Dr. Whitaker consider that approach to be academically rigorous? Are there any-----

The Senator has asked a question. Let us obtain an answer.

Dr. Teresa Whitaker

When the Swedish Government introduced a law criminalising the clients, it did not at any time consult sex workers. I would not be happy with anything that it says.

I have a question for Ms Barron about people with disabilities. Her submission states the following:

There is a considerable body of evidence showing that, people with disabilities are at a higher risk of violence and abuse compared to others, and are more likely than others to have experienced multiple incidents of sexual violence. Irish data shows that those with severely hampering disabilities were 2.9 times more likely to have experienced domestic and violent abuse than other adults.

On what research is this conclusion based? Ms Barron will be aware of pending legislation on assisted decision making. How will the legislation impact on this whole area?

Ms Siobhan Barron

The source of that data was some research undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute in the past five years. The findings do not differ significantly from data in other countries such as Canada and the United States.

The assisted decision making legislation will focus strongly on capacity to engage and a presumption of capacity in the first instance, which will be very important. Having listened to the contributions, it should be noted that developments in mainstream services, including in the non-governmental sector, will make much of the difference. The work being done under Cosc - the national strategy, as it were - is very important because much of this will be about consent and capacity, as well as awareness in respect of people who are victims of violence. There is a lot happening to a funding stream under Cosc so that organisations can review their materials and decide what activities they do to reach out to people with disabilities to enable them to avail of services. Of equal importance will be the availability of counselling supports, the right skill sets and awareness to the Garda and others.

Will Ms O'Malley-Dunlop indicate whether it is the case that domestic and sexual violence are on the increase or whether the level of reporting in respect of both has improved?

Ms Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop

That is a very interesting question. I do not believe we can answer it until the longitudinal research that will allow us to make the comparison becomes available. We have research which shows that the reporting rates for sexual violence have certainly increased. However, there is still a large disconnect between actual reporting and getting cases to court. That is worrying. One of the reasons reporting rates have been increasing is that during the past 15 years we have been having an input into the education and training programme at the Garda training college in Templemore. This has had an immensely positive impact and has given rise to a sea change in terms of the attitude of gardaí when they meet victims. In turn, victims now feel more confident in reporting crimes to gardaí. This needs to become the case right across the criminal justice system.

At our meeting last week, an impression was given that this type of violence is learned by offenders. One witness stated that offenders can be treated while another stated that they cannot. I accept that she is coming at it from another angle but, as a psychologist, does Ms Kennedy have an opinion to offer in respect of those two points of view?

Ms Felicity Kennedy

This is probably a typical answer from a psychologist but it depends.

I asked for that.

It is the right answer.

Ms Felicity Kennedy

If a child is subjected to abuse, if that abuse is very forceful and ongoing and if the child is isolated, it may be more likely that the child may go on to be abusive. However, I am very careful in saying that because so many children do not go on to be abusive. So many young men grow up and this is the last thing they will do. There is a huge range of variables involved.

I thank all of our guests for attending, for giving of their valuable time and expertise and for providing contributing to this debate. As other members stated, the input of each of our guests has been very important. We will take their views on board when compiling our final report. If they have other information or documentation to offer or points they wish to make, they can forward them - by e-mail, if possible - to the clerk to the committee. Communicating by e-mail with the clerk is far more effective than trying to contact individual members of the committee. I also thank members for being present and for contributing to the debate on this very important issue.

The joint committee adjourned at 5.05 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 March 2014.