4. Criminal Law and Procedure

4.1 Review and Consolidation of the Law on Sexual Offences

In 2019, the Commission began work on a Review and Consolidation of the Law on Sexual Offences (5th Programme of Law Reform, Project 5). During the public consultation process, the Commission received a large number of submissions concerning the need to review specific aspects of sexual offences law and for the consolidation of the law.

 As to the specific aspects of the law, the project will examine:

  1.  the definition of rape;
  2. sexual history evidence;
  3. whether the doctrine of recent complaint ought to be abolished;
  4. the discretionary corroboration warning;
  5. the anonymity of accused persons in sexual assault cases;
  6. whether trials for sexual assault should be heard otherwise than in public;
  7. the high attrition rate in sexual offences cases, and whether procedural and other reforms could have an impact on this; and
  8. separate legal representation for complainants.

As to consolidation, while the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 has provided for significant reform,13 it did not involve complete consolidation of the law, and it remains the case that some sexual offences on the statute book date back to the 19th century.

Both aspects of this project will take due account of relevant work by the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to sexual offences.

4.2 Compensating Victims of Crime

In 2020, the Commission began work on its project on compensating the victims of crime (5th Programme of Law Reform, Project 7).  During the public consultation process for the fifth programme, a number of submissions received by the Commission raised concerns about the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in the context of sexual crimes. Submissions were also raised concerns about the interaction between the Scheme and section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, which provides a procedure whereby a criminal court may order an offender to pay compensation to the victim in respect of any personal injury or loss resulting from the offence.

This project will examine whether the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which was established on a non-statutory basis in 1974, is in need of reform, particularly having regard to Ireland’s obligations to compensate victims of crime under Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims. It will examine whether the Scheme should be amended to include claims for general damages experienced by the victim, and any other aspects that may require reform. 

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