In a last minute move, laws that could have revolutionised rape cases in Ireland have been scrapped by the Department of Justice.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has rejected proposals for major reform in Irish rape legislation. The Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking Bill 2023 would have put the burden of proof in rape cases on the accused, meaning they would be responsible for proving to the jury that they sought consent.
Published in July, the bill would have helped strengthen rape laws in Ireland and scrapped many of the provisions made in Section 2 of the 1981 Rape Act. According to a spokesperson from the Department of Justice, the landmark bill was parked for numerous reasons, one of which being that it had to be re-examined to assess it’s constitutionality.
A spokesperson from McEntee’s department announced that new legislation will be progressed next year – however unnamed sources within the government have expressed that such a move would be “difficult” before the next general election, the Irish Examiner reported.
The legislation had progressed significantly since its approval in July, with Justice Minister McEntee seemingly prioritising rape and sexual assault legislation since her appointment in June 2020.
CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Rachel Morrogh has criticised the move, citing that:
“We believe the removal of these provisions weakens the legislation and we urge the minister to reconsider this decision – we are concerned that it may be a step backwards in an area where there has been so much progress over recent years, where the minister and her department have shown great commitment and focus.”
The move comes after renewed scrutiny of the Minister for Justice following the riots seen in Dublin last Thursday.
While many are advocating for her resignation following the riots and the last-minute scrapping of landmark rape legislation reform, Justice Minister McEntee has rejected recent calls for her to resign, stating;
“I am absolutely focused on my job – that’s my priority. That’s always been my priority.”