Out-of-court video evidence urged in report on violence and women

 

An improvement in family law court facilities, including the use of out-of-court video evidence for statements to gardai, was proposed yesterday in a report from a high-level committee on violence against women.

Presenting the First Report of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Law Reform, Ms Mary Wallace, said Irish society needed to "take stock of its responsibilities in order to challenge situations of violence against women and their associated myths".

Referring to International Women's Day, which is being celebrated today, she said the message to every woman and man, girl and boy, was that violence against women was always wrong and a crime.

The report, she said, would be a benchmark against which future achievements in the area would be measured. The strategy of the committee was to support the victims in the short, medium and long term, she said.

"Irish society has for too long labelled violence against women as a `hidden crime'. This has only made a bad situation worse.

We should all reassess our perception of the most important equality issue of them all: the role of women and men in society. Whether it is at home or in the workplace, empowering women means acknowledging their human rights, - nothing more and nothing less."

The report identified a number of areas in relation to violence against women that the criminal justice system must concentrate on. It called for further development of the family law courts and facilities, as well as an increase in female representation on the benches of various courts.

It said that the admission of evidence using out-of-court video statements made to gardai should be allowed.

An improvement in waiting times at Legal Aid boards and an increase in staffing levels at the probation and welfare services was needed.

The committee was established in December 1997. Its brief was to provide a cohesive response to women who are victims of violence.