The Government and I, as the Minister for Justice, are committed to tackling sexual violence and sexual crime in all its forms. I wish to ensure, most importantly, that victims feel empowered to come forward to report sexual crimes and that when they do, they are fully supported in every step of the process and that their interaction with our justice system is as supportive as possible. I urge all victims of sexual crime, regardless of how it happened, to come forward and I reassure them that they will be treated respectfully and professionally. Sometimes, unfortunately, especially in a domestic setting, people feel that they cannot come forward. Separate to detection rates in general, then, the coming forward is the really difficult part for victims. Therefore, I urge everyone finding themselves in that situation to come forward.
The detection of and response to any criminal activity is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. I have been informed, however, that it is a function of the sexual crime management unit, SCMU, which is part of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, GNPSB, to examine incidents to identify factors leading to the withdrawal of complaints of rape by victims of such crimes.
In addressing the issue of chronically low detection rates, and they are very low, unfortunately, An Garda Síochána has implemented several initiatives to ensure that this cohort of extremely vulnerable victims receives the best possible service when they make contact. This includes: the completion of the roll-out of the national divisional protective services units, DPSUs, which are units that provide specialist, expert and sensitive assistance from members of An Garda Síochána; the establishment of the child sexual abuse report line, CSAR, 1800 555 222, which is overseen by the sexual crime management unit; and an increase in the number of members of the force at the ranks of garda and sergeant who are trained in the use of enhanced cognitive interviewing, which has been found to be less traumatic than the traditional method and more effective at capturing evidence. That work is under way within An Garda Síochána.
From my perspective, the Supporting a Victim’s Journey policy is crucial if we are going to encourage more victims to come forward. If people know that the criminal justice system will listen to and support them, treat them with respect throughout the process and that at the end of the process, those responsible will be punished, that will make people more likely to come forward.