DPP to establish specialised sexual offences unit next year
A specialised sexual offences unit will be established within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions next year, Ireland’s top prosecutor has announced.
Claire Loftus, writing in the foreword to her office’s annual report for 2018, said the Government had provided funding for the establishment of the unit during 2020, with full funding available for 2021.
The unit will have a dedicated ten-person staff, including seven legal posts and three administrative posts.
The new unit will manage all sexual offences prosecuted in the Central Criminal Court and in the Dublin Circuit Court, and will make prosecutorial decisions on all sexual offences cases outside of Dublin, including all matters relating to the experience of complainants in the criminal justice system.
Ms Loftus said: “I am optimistic that this reorganisation, which is a major change project for the Office, will enhance the service victims receive from us.”
The new unit will also incorporate a number of recommendations from an internal review into vicarious trauma, which found that a high proportion of legal staff are suffering from trauma as a result of their work.
The report, authored by barrister and trauma expert Jennifer Bulbilia, reportedly found that up to 56 per cent of legal staff at the Office of the DPP were suffering from trauma.
Ms Loftus said: “The report was positive about the results of a survey of staff. A key finding was that in general moderate to low levels of vicarious trauma were reported with a small proportion reporting higher levels.
“The report nevertheless highlights the importance of building on the wide range of supports currently used by staff. Some of these supports, such as peer to peer support, have organically grown through a strong team culture.
“While an important project in its own right, the vicarious trauma study is particularly relevant in the context of the establishment of the specialised sexual offences unit.”
She added: “The study made a number of recommendations covering a wide variety of supports which might be considered in the context of the potential for vicarious trauma
“We have been working on these recommendations over the last number of months with a view to developing a multi-faceted support structure for staff. This will also assist staff in their interactions with victims and their families, thus I believe enhancing the service we provide.”