Launch of One in Four Annual Report 2017

Wednesday October 10, 2018

Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square East, Dublin 2.


Good morning to all,


Thank you for the invitation to launch your annual report for 2017.


I want to take the opportunity today, on behalf of the Government, to publicly acknowledge and commend the very special work done by One in Four.


As your logo says, you are bringing people who have been subject to sexual abuse on a journey from “surviving to living”.


As you (David and Maeve) have already outlined, the Report gives us a detailed insight into the key work of One in Four - responding  professionally to the problem of child sexual abuse in our society.


The organisation continues to be at the forefront of work in this area.


Today’s report shows that you are consistently delivering key supports in a compassionate and expert way.


The ongoing demand for and take up of your services is clear, and your inclusion of individual case comments helps personalise the value of what is being done.

In looking closely at the report I am impressed by the broad and integrated nature of the services which you are providing and I am very pleased that the Victims of Crime office in my Department has been able to provide funding support for your work.


So many of the people whom you serve day in, day out, have been  deeply traumatised by what has happened to them or to a family member.  This highlights how crucial the help you are providing through your range of psychotherapy and advocacy services is.


The work which you are doing under the Phoenix programme with non-convicted sex offenders is also significant.


I know that this brave and innovative treatment programme is a key part of your overall core child protection service and ethos. It is hugely encouraging to see this service being such a success.


It is also heartening to learn that a specific programme for young offenders aged 18 to 25 was also delivered last year under this strand of your work and I believe the overall issue of resources to enable you to deliver these services in meeting the level of demand is one which can be examined by all the relevant funding bodies.


I am also conscious of your broader policy work in the victim support area.


This can be seen through your work as an active member of the Victims Rights Alliance. It is also seen by your regular and positive engagement with Government Departments and Agencies in the development of policy and legislation.


Your constructive inputs into the development of recent important legislative and policy reforms is most welcome as is all of your training work.  


I am also grateful for your research work in this policy area such as your valuable “Only a Witness” report which you presented to me on your clients experiences of the criminal justice system. 


It is clear that a key philosophy and common thread running through all strands of your work is your desire to fully support victims in a practical and compassionate way.


This applies whether a client’s relationship with One in Four involves just one telephone conversation seeking basic information. Or where it ranges over a much longer timeframe and includes more direct face to face support.


Your clients still face challenges when engaging with the criminal justice system and with our child protection framework.


I fully appreciate that many of them have made it clear that their experience has been negative and has in fact often re-traumatised them.


This is something we are working resolutely to address across the entire justice system as we look to embed system wide reforms and I can assure you that a  common desire to better serve your clients is at the heart of those reforms.


We are driven by a real commitment to make our system one which is much more accommodating and more supportive of all victims of crime. A huge amount of work has been and continues to be done in moving us towards this goal.  Victims must feel confident they are part of a system that is sensitive and responsive to their needs and does not cause them further harm.


You have acknowledged in your report some of the recent major legislative reforms which are of particular relevance to your work.


These include the victim oriented provisions contained in the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017.


Some of the specific measures you advocated for are included in these new laws.  For example we will see increased protection of victims during trials with greater use of screens and video evidence.


The new laws also include provisions to prevent cross-examination by an accused person, and regulations for the disclosure of third-party counselling records.


I am also anxious to make sure that we are doing all we can to ensure victims of sexual offences have appropriate protections during the court process which can at times be so daunting. 


As many of you here will be aware, I have initiated a review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences with an emphasis on vulnerable witnesses.


A review group, chaired by an expert in this field Tom O’Malley, has begun its work, and will report to me by the end of the year.


Again, your support in informing the setting up of and terms of reference this review has been very welcome.


In terms of prevention, both the Children’s First regime and Tusla’s new Corporate Plan for 2018-2020 together represent a strong framework to strengthen our efforts in supporting the protection of children from abuse.


A significant transformation programme is being progressed in Tusla to ensure that it can effectively apply the best practice principles of Children First.


We have been also updating our laws to strengthen our overall response to child abuse.


Overall the key is to make sure that the legislative reform which has been introduced, is accompanied by necessary and system wide operational reforms and processes.


To achieve this, new structures and arrangements are being introduced and embedded across the criminal justice agencies to make the system more victim oriented. 


Some prime examples of this include, on the policing side, the establishment of the Garda Victim Service Offices in every Garda Division.


It also includes the setting up of the National Protective Services Bureau and its Divisional Protective Service Units.


Victim liaison units or teams are also now in place in the Prison Service, the Probation Service and the Office of the DPP.


On the courts side, new customised victims’ facilities have been introduced as we have been upgrading and modernising our Courts infrastructure.


I also want to acknowledge the law enforcement efforts of An Garda Síochána in tackling this form of crime. Their ongoing vigilant police work in this area was demonstrated in their recent intelligence led Operation Ketch.


In terms of broadening our knowledge base on sexual crime, work is well advanced in preparing the ground for a major study to identify the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.


I hope to be able to bring proposals to Government on this in the near future.


It is important as well to maintain public awareness and discourse in this area. To help with this, from the start of next year, the main focus of the Government’s National Awareness Campaign “What would you do” will be on the issue of sexual violence.


In all of this work I am heartened by the huge commitment from everyone here to further the progress we are making.


In concluding, let me once again thank all involved in One in Four, including yourself David and all of the Board, Maeve as Executive Director, your Programme Directors and all of your staff team and supporters for all of your work.


Your Annual Report for 2017, which I formally launch now, is a testament to the hugely important contribution your work is making in Irish society.


I wish you very well in meeting all of the challenges which work of this nature presents.