5. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the specific measures he is taking to tackle crimes against persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12316/19]
Deputy Charles Flanagan: I thank the Deputy for raising this question. I was very pleased to see her actively engaged on justice issues in her constituency at a recent meeting in County Cork. I was pleased with the progress initiated on the issue raised by her and I assure her my efforts are ongoing in that regard.
On the issue of crimes against persons with a disability, I assure the Deputy that the Government, including my colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, is committed to working with all stakeholders to help improve the lives of all persons with disabilities in Ireland. The Garda Síochána strategy statement identifies the prevention of crime as the organisation's top priority. The objective is to prevent crime before it occurs, as well as supporting and vindicating the rights of victims when a crime occurs.
In the context of people with disabilities, there are tailored responses to how such crimes are addressed. For example, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 includes specific provisions requiring gardaí to carry out special measures in their assessment of victims, including victims with a disability. The Act also provides that any communication with a victim must be in simple and accessible language and take into account the personal characteristics of the victim, such as, for example, disability, which may affect his or her ability to understand or be understood. There is also provision for persons with an intellectual disability to give evidence to the court through an intermediary.
In general, criminal offences such as assault committed against any person, including a person with a disability, are prosecuted as generic offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. However, in sentencing a person for the offence, a judge may take any aggravating factors into account. Such factors may include the vulnerability of the victim, encompassing matters such as disability.