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Call to action for survivors in the three justice systems – criminal, civil and child protection

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2023

The Minister for Justice Simon Harris has today welcomed the launch of a significant report by the National Women’s Council (NWC), highlighting the urgent need for reforms across the justice system for survivors reporting domestic and sexual abuse. The report, which was funded by Department of Justice, highlights that the current system means that many survivors are forced to navigate three separate legal systems: criminal, family and, if children are involved, child protection processes. The onus is on the survivor to navigate these processes simultaneously, because the systems don’t acknowledge or interact with each other, causing significant trauma and re-victimisation for survivors.   
Minister for Justice Simon Harris TD said:   

 “Today's report is a significant analysis of the intersection of criminal, family, and child protection law for victims and the impact this has on them in the context of domestic and sexual violence cases. It highlights the need for a more collaborative legal process for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the courts system. My Department and I will review the recommendations carefully, and progress appropriate initiatives as part of the Government’s Zero Tolerance Plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender based violence, and the Government’s Family Justice Strategy. 

The report stems from the Department of Justice Initiative Supporting a Victim’s Journey which seeks to capture the victim’s journey and supports needed for victims through the Justice process. This followed from the recommendations of the O’Malley Review.” 

NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:   
“It’s really positive that an increasing number of women are reporting domestic and sexual violence incidents to authorities, but unfortunately these legal systems don’t recognise or engage with each other. This places a significant burden on victims to connect and inform the three processes. Victims can be in different courts process simultaneously, for example giving evidence against the perpetrator in the criminal process and at the same time negotiating in civil courts on child access. Currently the responsibility is on the victim to bring relevant information between the systems and there is no acknowledgement of the trauma this is causing for victims. It is vital that the legal process does not further traumatise people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. If we are serious about achieving a victim centered approach then a comprehensive and wholistic approach is needed across the three systems and involving the courts, legal professionals, guards and Tusla”  

One of the report authors Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop said:  

“The report is a call to action to address the unique needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence within the court system. It is vital that any changes stem from a victim-centered approach, which is at the forefront of our recommendations. Having a wraparound system of both court and non-court support for victims throughout the entirety of the legal processes is vital in developing a system which doesn’t cause additional stress and difficulties to victims of domestic and sexual abuse.”   



For comment: Orla O’Connor, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, and Mary Louise Lynch of Sisi (SurvivorsInform).   

For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator: sineadn@nwci.ie  

What: Launch of new report on access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence  

When: 9:15am, 3 May  

Where: The Atrium, Stephens Green, Dublin 2  

Find the full report here:  https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/NWC_DoJ_DSV_Justice_Report.pdf 


Some key recommendations from the report are:  

A resourced and comprehensive system of both court and non-court support for victims of domestic or sexual violence throughout the entire journey of the various legal processes  

Systemic and mandatory training for all professionals whom victims encounter during court experience, including the judiciary, lawyers, Gardaí and court services personnel to equip them with an in-depth understanding the domestic and sexual violence and its impact upon both adult and child victims.   

Amendments to in-camera rule to allow victims to speak with court personnel, persons engaged in the provision of therapy, and other relevant parties, all of whom are bound by confidentiality obligations in relation to these discussions 


 About NWC    

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.   

This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.   

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.    

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie