Sexual offences bill to ‘protect’ child sex attack survivors from trauma



Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald TD
Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald TD

Child survivors of alleged sex attacks would be protected from cross-examination by those accused of assaulting them under new laws proposed by the government.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, published yesterday by justice minister Frances Fitzgerald, contains provisions intended to protect children from “additional trauma”.

The proposed law states that an under-14 should not be cross-examined personally by someone accused of child sex offences unless the court “is of the opinion that the interests of justice require the accused to conduct the cross-examination personally”.

The bill also provides for underage witnesses to provide evidence from “behind a screen or other similar device”, with the agreement of the court, in order to avoid seeing the accused.

Another provision regulates the use of the accuser’s counselling or therapy records as evidence in a criminal trial. The appropriateness of disclosing such records will be made subject of a pre-trial hearing.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “These changes are intended to protect child victims of sexual offences from any additional trauma which may arise as a result of giving evidence during a criminal trial such as extending the use of video recorded evidence and limiting the circumstances in which an accused can personally cross examine a child witness.”