Specialised Sex Assault Investigations Units For Fermoy and Cork County

By Seamus Whelehan

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Senior Garda Management in Cork County have announced that they are to create two Protective Services Units (PSU) to deal with sexual assaults and domestic violence investigations.
One unit, based in Dunmanway West Cork, is to open in the next ten weeks and a second, located close to Garda HQ in Fermoy covering North and East Cork, is expected to follow shortly.
Both units will consist of specially trained officers working closely with Tusla, the child and family agency, the HSE and the Department of Education.
It’s a model which has already been implemented in 3 locations across the Country, two in Dublin’s Cabra and Clondalkin, one in Louth and another in Cork City.
Six more units are due to become operational nationally by the end of the year, including the two Cork Divisions.
The West Cork Unit is to be operational before Christmas, with 12 Garda personnel undergoing training in at the Garda College in Templemore.
“Sexual and domestic related crime can be very difficult to investigate, very difficult for the victims and for the injured parties in those crimes” Chief Super Intendent Con Cadogan told a Sitting of Cork County Council Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
He said a dedicated unit offering a victim centred approach will be a step in the right direction.
“With a dedicated unit it means all the other support agencies can all work together such as Tusla, the HSE and the Department of Education, to reduce the impact on the victims and move the investigation along quickly.”
Victim advocacy group, Sexual Violence Cork, welcomes the news stating they have found the PSU unit operation in Cork City is working well.
However group spokesperson, Mary Crilly, said there also needs to be a change in how the Courts deal with domestic and sexual crime in order for the units to work efficiently.
“The vast majority of women who are raped or sexually assaulted do not report the crime to police, in many cases because they have little confidence that their attacker would be brought to justice. If there is a lot of DNA found on the victim, all the attacker has to say is that it was consensual.”
She said 80% of rape is carried out by a person known to the victim, yet there is only a 5% conviction rate.
“The onus is on the women to prove the crime happened, reliving traumatic events in open Court. All the accused has to do is sit with his mouth closed and deny everything.”
Ms Crilly said a code of conduct for Barristers dealing with incidents of a sexual and domestic violence nature was also warranted.
Citing a case in the Cork Courts last year where a Defence Barrister in a rape trial asked a Jury to take into account that the 17-year-old complainant was wearing a lace thong on the night in question!
The Barrister’s comments sparked outrage and led to protests, which made international headlines.

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