Cabinet to discuss plans to protect vulnerable witnesses in coercive control and stalking cases

Expanded trial protections would prohibit those accused of coercive control from personally cross-examining victim or child

The plans are part of the Zero Tolerance strategy and Supporting a Victim’s Journey report published by former minister for justice Helen McEntee. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Plans to protect vulnerable witnesses from intimidation during court cases relating to coercive control, forced marriage, stalking and harassment are to be discussed by the Government at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris is to brief his fellow Ministers on work being carried out to expand trial protections already on offer to victims of sexual offences and children to other groups of victims or witnesses.

It comes in response to a Seanad Private Members’ Bill from Green Party Senator Vincent P Martin, which would allow courts to prohibit an accused person from personally cross-examining a victim or a child in a coercive control case.

The proposed legislation – which has been co-sponsored by Labour Party Senators and some Independents – is to be debated in the Seanad on Wednesday.


The Irish Times understands that Mr Harris will ask the Government not to oppose Mr Martin’s Bill. However, he is expected to tell his Cabinet colleagues that his department is working on legislation that would broaden the protections it offers to cases involving forced marriage, stalking and harassment.

The plans are aimed at helping to protect vulnerable witnesses from intimidation and re-traumatisation as part of the Zero Tolerance strategy and Supporting a Victim’s Journey report published by former minister for justice Helen McEntee, who is on maternity leave.

Separately, Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers is expected to bring proposals for an €18 million fund to assist the haulage sector while companies and drivers continue to face high fuel costs. Research by his department shows that fuel prices for operators continue to be almost €300 more expensive per week than in 2021.

The planned Licensed Haulage Support Scheme 2023 is to be operated on a graduated payment basis, meaning a larger relative level of support is available for smaller operators. Payments per vehicle will be calculated based on €1,200 for the first five vehicles on an operator’s licence; €700 for vehicles six to 20; and €200 for each vehicle thereafter.

Payments under the scheme are to start by the end of March, subject to the completion of the required EU state aid process.

Meanwhile, Ministers are to consider plans for the establishment of a citizens’ assembly on drugs policy. The long-awaited forum would likely have a start date in April. The Government had committed to establishing such a forum at the earliest opportunity this year, along with a further assembly on the future of education.

The Cabinet is also to be briefed on this year’s St Patrick’s Day programme of ministerial visits abroad.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be travelling to Washington, DC for an expected White House meeting with US president Joe Biden. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin is to head to New York and Boston.

The themes of the ministerial visits will include the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement and other milestones such as 100 years of Irish diplomacy and 50 years of Irish EU membership.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times