I welcome the publication of the latest Women's Aid report referred to by the Deputy Kenny. I am familiar with the very good work done by Women’s Aid to highlight, as it does on a regular basis, the impact of domestic violence. The report referred to provides important first-hand accounts of the abuse suffered by victims of domestic abuse. Understanding such victims is important to me, as Minister, and it greatly assists in the development of Government policy in this important area. My Department will study the report carefully in that context.
As Deputies will be aware, the Government has already considerably strengthened the law and structures which target domestic violence, as part of the second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021.
Central to this is the landmark Domestic Violence Act 2018, which came into force on 1 January of this year. Other developments in this area include the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which introduced a statutory definition of consent, and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017, which provides a wide range of measures and services to protect and inform victims during the progress of their case through the criminal justice system.
Moreover, An Garda Síochána is continuously improving its specialist services. Responding to the needs of victims has seen the roll-out of divisional protective services units, DPSU, with specifically and specially trained officers responsible for investigations, including engagement with victims. These units will support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual and domestic crime.
The introduction of these measures last year and early this year supported Ireland’s ratification earlier this year of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention and combating of violence against women and domestic violence, which I announced on International Women's Day last March.
I note that the report refers to sentencing in this field. Deputy Kenny will appreciate that the Judiciary is independent in matters of sentencing. However, the recently enacted Judicial Council Act 2019 will provide for the development of sentencing guidelines by the Judiciary itself.