I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 17 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, Tom O’ Malley, Senior Lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and member of the Law Reform Commission, is chairing the working group carrying out this review. He is joined by representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Probation Service, the Courts Service and my own Department.
The review is examining the adequacy of measures available to protect vulnerable witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, to help ensure the best quality evidence is available to the jury in making their decision, while respecting the dignity of the victim and their right not to be re-victimised by the investigation or trial process itself.
It will examine the entire legal process around sexual offences, from the initial reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings. The review is particularly concerned with the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses throughout this process. This Government remains committed to tackling the scourge of sexual violence, in all its forms and to supporting victims. Examining the experiences of victims is vital to that aim.
The terms of reference encompass a broad range of issues and I understand that the working group has received a large number of submissions. It is important that these complex and sensitive issues are considered carefully and I understand that the review is at an advanced stage and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
While the outcome cannot be pre-empted, I look forward to its recommendations. Any such recommendations will be given careful consideration alongside the recent work of the Law Reform Commission on knowledge and belief concerning consent in rape law which I have welcomed. My overall goal in this exercise will be to provide for implementation of any recommendations which may be of assistance in supporting victims and vulnerable witnesses, while of course respecting the necessary fairness and balance inherent in our criminal justice system.