44. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the fall in detection rates for sexual offences highlighted in the recent CSO survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40451/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I understand that the Deputy is referring to detection rates highlighted in the 'Garda Recorded Crime Statistics 2010-2014', which was published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week. The first thing that needs to be said is that this publication provides an analysis of data up to the end of 2014 only, and it would be incorrect to suggest that it represents an assessment of the current situation in relation to sexual offences or any other crime category.
In relation to the general issue of detection rates, it must be recognised that detection rates do vary according to the nature of the crime and that this is in line with international experience. Some categories of offences, including sexual offences, are inherently more difficult to investigate than others such as possession of drugs, for example, where the offender is observed while committing the offence.
As regards our overall approach to sexual offences, the Deputy will be aware that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill was published in September 2015. It has completed passage in Seanad Éireann and is awaiting Report Stage in Dáil Éireann. It is expected to be enacted in early 2017.
This Bill includes wide ranging provisions to enhance the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. When enacted, the Bill will facilitate full compliance with the criminal law provisions of a number of international legal instruments. The Bill will also implement the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees, reform the law on incest and provide enhanced protections for victims of sexual offences in the criminal process and for vulnerable persons. In addition, the Bill will provide for new offences of purchasing, in the context of prostitution, sexual services.
In January 2016, I launched the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021. The Strategy envisages a range of actions to be implemented by State, voluntary and community sector organisations aimed at preventing and responding to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. An important recent initiative under the Strategy is the “What would you do?” campaign on domestic violence, which focuses on prevention, empowerment and support. It is intended that the campaign will run for a period of 6 years up to 2021. The first 3 years will focus on domestic violence, to be followed by 3 years dealing with sexual violence, but elements of each type of violence will feature in each phase of the campaign.
An Garda Síochána is committed to fully implement actions for which it is responsible under the National Strategy. In 2015, a number of Garda units were brought together to leverage their experience and expertise in investigating serious crimes against the person including sexual offences. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) is a specialist team dedicated to making sure each and every complaint relating to child protection, human trafficking and domestic and sexual violence is thoroughly investigated and handled correctly. In addition, the GNPSB is are responsible for working with other agencies to manage sex offenders in the interest of community safety. As part of the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016 -2021 Protective Services Units (PSUs) will be set up around the country with specially trained staff. The PSUs will work with the Garda Victim Service Offices in their area to ensure that the needs of victims are adequately catered for.
As the Deputy is aware, the Government is making very significant investments in Garda resources, including the expansion of the Garda fleet, upgrading of IT systems and a commitment to increase overall Garda numbers to 15,000 through a programme of accelerated recruitment. I am confident that all these measures will support enhanced responses to all forms of crime and support the implementation of the strategic approach to dealing with sexual offences which I have outlined.