A SKIBBEREEN woman has been credited with a Government decision to roll out empathy training to all members of the gardaí.
The announcement by the Minister for Justice follows Alicia O’Sullivan’s denouncement of the gardaí for the manner in which they handled her complaint of identity theft on Instagram.
Labour Senator and spokesperson for equality, Ivana Bacik, since raised the issue in the Seanad, and the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee has now confirmed that the roll out of this training to all Gardaí will commence later this year.
‘The increased training will ensure that the gardaí are able to support victims of sexual offences,’ the senator told The Southern Star.
‘In light of the disturbing experience of Alicia O’Sullivan, who was recently impersonated on Instagram by a pornography account,’ she said, ‘there is a need for us to review how Gardaí who take complaints of sexual abuse are trained to make sure that there is a sufficient understanding of legislation in place and to guarantee that anybody who comes forward to make a complaint is treated with empathy.’
The senator said the justice minister had been ‘very proactive’ in passing the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, or Coco’s law in December 2020.
This law makes it an offence to distribute intimate images, whether real of falsified, of another person without their consent.
The law is named after 21-year-old Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox, who died in 2018, following years of online bullying.
Now, the senator said, it is important that legislators pass legal reforms to assist victims that they are accompanied by robust garda training programmes and public awareness campaigns.
Senator Bacik also commended Alicia for coming forward and sharing her experience so publicly. ‘Hopefully,’ she added, ‘her sacrifice in this regard will mean that others do not have to suffer in the same way.’
Alicia said she had been reduced to tears after reporting the matter to gardaí.