Garda reach out to crime victims with new ‘support centres’

Specially trained gardaí will help people traumatised from violent and sexual crimes

 Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, Tom Meagher, Advocate White Ribbon Ireland, and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan at the launch in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, Tom Meagher, Advocate White Ribbon Ireland, and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan at the launch in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Garda is to roll out new victim support centres across the State as part of a major drive to improve its treatment of those impacted by violent crime, including sexual offences.

The move comes just three weeks after the Garda Inspectorate criticised the force’s approach to sex crimes and domestic violence.

Its two year review of how the Garda investigates crime found victims were rarely kept informed of progress in their cases and suspects for domestic violence were very rarely arrested.

The report concluded the Garda often minimised domestic violence and some in the force believed investigating such cases was a waste of time.

Speaking at an event in Dublin to mark White Ribbon Day, which highlights violence by men against women, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said two new victim support service centres had been trialled in Dublin and Waterford.

Gardaí working in them had been trained by non-government organisations, who deal with victims of crime and had also received feedback and guidance from victims.

They had learned how to deal with the fallout for victims and their families after a traumatic crime.

Commissioner O’Sullivan said centres would now be introduced into each of the Garda’s 25 divisions.

“(They) will be able to deal with victims of all types of crime, particularly sexual crimes and crimes of violence,” she said.

“Any crime that’s perpetrated against any person and brought to the attention of An Garda Síochána, will be taken seriously.

“We will listen to the victim. They will be heard and they will be understood. And their crime will be properly and thoroughly investigated.”

She said the new approach would see victims supported through the legal process, with many cases that went to court often protracted, and “troubling and bewildering”.

“It’s very important that we look beyond the statistics. Beyond every single victim there is an individual.”

And with one in five Irish women the victim of abuse at some time during their lives, there was a pressing need to provide the best policing response possible.

Tom Meagher, the husband of Irish woman Jill Meagher who was raped and murdered in Australia, said at the same event in Dublin there should be no tolerance in any parts of society for the abuse of women.

He was disappointed to see a group representing professional footballers had been linked to a message of support for the professional soccer player and convicted rapist Ched Evans. The Welsh international was released from prison last month.

Mr Meagher said some of the same people who would have condemned his wife’s killer as a “monster” had supported Evans “saying he’s a great guy and deserves a chance”.

When asked his reaction to the criticisms of the Garda’s approach to domestic violence outlined in the Garda Inspectorate’s report, he said: “There’s often an impunity that goes with this kind of violence.

“Historically, (victims of sex crimes reporting to gardaí) have been massively viewed with suspicion and I think it’s time we started to listen to victims and to believe victims. And really (we need to) stamp this out legally and socially.

“In this country there’s such a lurid history, particularly in relation to the abuse cases that have come out in recent times that thrived in that silence, and thrived in that legal impunity as well. I think we really have to look at ourselves.”

He said violence against women could be ignored or marginalised depending on who the victim or perpetrator was, with class and race often informing that process.