Government response to sex-crime report surge criticised

Rape Crisis Centre identifies cultural shift towards reporting sexual crimes

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: along with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Catherine Zappone, he has yet to have his “light bulb moment” in terms of urgent response to sex-crime incidence, says  Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s Noeline Blackwell. Photograph: James Forde

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: along with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Catherine Zappone, he has yet to have his “light bulb moment” in terms of urgent response to sex-crime incidence, says Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s Noeline Blackwell. Photograph: James Forde

 

There has been a “significant” shift in sex-crime victims’ willingness to report the offences to the Garda but the Government is not responding with sufficient urgency, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said.

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the organisation which assists victims of rape and other sexual crimes, made her comments as the number of sex crimes being reported to the Garda reached record levels.

According to the Central Statistics Office, more than 3,000 sex crimes were reported to the Garda for the first time ever in 2018, the third year in a row in which a new record level of sex offences was recorded in the Republic.

Reported sex crime has increased by 62 per cent since 2014, with most of that increase in the past two years.

Rape figures

The number of rapes reported to the Garda has risen 51 per cent in the past two years and doubled since 2013, to 782 cases last year.

Ms Blackwell said the sustained increase in sex crimes being reported would have knock-on implications for the Garda, courts and counselling services.

A “very real urgency” was now called for, specifically from Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Catherine Zappone, who were yet to have their “light bulb moment”, Ms Blackwell said.

“There is something significant happening,” Ms Blackwell said of what she termed a cultural shift in Ireland towards naming and reporting sexual crimes.

MeToo movement

“It’s as if an epidemic has been going on underground but now people are bringing it out into the open.”

Ms Blackwell said she believed the MeToo movement, and changes to the criminal law to specifically define consent, had combined with other factors to encourage victims to come forward.

However, Ms Blackwell said the 3,182 offences reported last year represented only a tiny fraction of all sexual offending.

She believed the vast majority of crimes were still going unreported.

If measles, for example, increased at the rate that recorded sex crimes have, it would be treated as a public health emergency, with commensurate resources committed to it, she said.