Donations to rape crisis centre rise €70,000 after Belfast trial

Charity says increase reflects public concerns over court treatment of victims

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: ‘People told us of their upset about the cruelty of the court system and inappropriate social media messages.’ Photograph: James Forde

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: ‘People told us of their upset about the cruelty of the court system and inappropriate social media messages.’ Photograph: James Forde

 

Public outrage resulting from last year’s Belfast rape trial led to an “unexpected but very welcome surge in income” for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC).

The charity’s annual report, published on Tuesday, reveals an additional €70,000 in funding via text and online donations following a lengthy trial that provoked public debate on how rape cases are prosecuted.

The high-profile defendants, Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, were acquitted of rape following nine weeks in court.

Much of the DRCC’s unexpected funding stream came in the 90 days following the verdicts, it said, elevating its income above that of 2017. The money was set aside to fund psychological support services for victims of sexual violence navigating the criminal justice process.

The report views the donation surge as a reflection of “public concerns about the treatment of sexual offences victims in our courts”.

‘Cruelty’

“People told us of their upset about the cruelty of the court system and inappropriate social media messages,” DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell wrote in her overview of the year.

“In deference to the intention of members of the public who made these donations, the funds have been ring-fenced in order to increase our capacity to support those who need it when they are attending court and Garda stations.”

Meanwhile, the DRCC has said a separate increase in State funding announced earlier this year would likely prove insufficient to meet the steady rise in demand for services by victims of sexual violence.

It received helpline contacts from almost 13,400 people in 2018, a rise of 4 per cent on 2017 and 8 per cent on 2016.

However, with a lack of sufficient research, the report notes, it remains unclear whether the upward curve is the result of a rise in assaults or a cultural shift in attitudes toward reporting them.