Sexual Assault – Sexual Abuse
Any form of Sexual Abuse* is naturally a very sensitive issue. Our sexual abuse solicitors are very experienced in this type of case, and will discuss your situation sympathetically and explain each step of the process to you along the way.
Whatever type of abuse you have suffered, you have rights, and we can bring you through the process of having your voice heard, and your rights vindicated.
Sexual Assault - Civil Proceedings:
Sexual assault is both a crime and a civil wrong.
A victim of sexual crime has the right to bring civil proceedings seeking monetary compensation and this is completely separate from a criminal complaint. Civil cases for sexual offences would generally be heard before the High Court. The victim has the right to decide to either have a judge hear their case sitting alone, or have their case tried by a judge and jury consisting of twelve persons. The time frame in which to bring a civil case is within six years of the sexual assault occurring. However where an employee, school association or institution is being sued due to the fact their negligence permitted the abuse, the time limit is three years. There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as for those victims who were abused whilst children, or those suffering from a psychological injury which prevented reporting of the abuse or where the injury caused by the abuse does not manifest itself for a period of time, or a person does not know that they have suffered a significant injury.
It is important to note that the only remedy from a civil case in respect of sexual abuse is monetary compensation.
There are instances where the Defendant of a sexual assault can seek to have the case dismissed on the basis that the case is outside the normal time frame allowed within which to bring the case or where they have been prejudiced by the delay involved. These matters can be tried as a separate and preliminary issue in the High Court.
Many clients ask how long a sexual abuse case would take to come to trial. It is difficult to give a general estimate as much depends on the individual circumstances of each case, i.e the attitude of the Defendant, the complexity of the legal issues raised, the ability of the Plaintiff to progress the case speedily and the availability of hearing dates, however three to five years is a useful rule of thumb in respect of such matters.
The media are also allowed to attend and report on the trial of a civil sexual abuse case. However, certain Judges are amenable to granting reporting restrictions but it would depend on the facts of the particular case before them.
In respect of pursuing criminal proceedings in the event of a sexual assault, it is important that the complaint is made to the Gardaí immediately or soon as possible after the event. The Gardaí will take a full statement and generally interview the alleged perpetrator and begin their investigation. Once the Gardaí complete their investigation they will then refer the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who will review the file and decide whether to direct a prosecution in a particular case. The DPP is an independent legal officer of the State who will consider all of the evidence on the Garda file, she will then decide whether to prosecute the offence. A criminal prosecution is brought by the DPP on behalf of the people of Ireland. If the DPP decides to prosecute, she will inform the Gardaí who will then formally charge the accused with the offence.
The vast majority of cases are sent for trial to either the Circuit Criminal Court or the Central Criminal Court for trial by a Judge and Jury. The Central Criminal Court is the criminal division of the High Court and generally sits in Dublin, although occasionally it hears cases in other cities and large towns. The Circuit Court sits all around the country. Therefore sexual assault type offences will be tried locally in the Circuit Court but cases which include an allegation of rape will usually be heard in Dublin.
It is very important to discuss the main differences between rape and sexual assault in legal terms. Rape, in legal terms, mean unlawful sexual intercourse by a man with a women, who at the time of intercourse does not consent to it and where the man knows that the women does not consent to the intercourse, or is reckless as to whether she does or does not consent to it.
Sexual assault is another term for the older phrase of indecent assault, which is an assault in circumstances of indecency. This involves touching another without consent in a way that carries sexual undertones.
There is no Statute of Limitation period in criminal cases, but delay is often used as a defence by persons accused of a sexual crime. However, the longer the delay the less likely that the case will be successfully prosecuted. If the DPP decides not to prosecute, she does not have to give reasons for her decision not to prosecute. Nevertheless, a victim of sexual abuse can ask the DPP to review her decision but unless there is new material which has come to light this will not be successful. It is very rare that a decision not to prosecute would be reversed.
It is possible for a victim of sexual abuse to bring a civil case at the same time as their criminal case. However, it is essential that if one intends bringing a civil case that they issue proceedings at the earliest possible opportunity as there is a Statute of Limitation period in respect of civil cases. If the DPP decides not to prosecute or the accused is acquitted at a criminal trial, the civil case remains in being as it is entirely separate. However, if the DPP decides to prosecute generally the criminal trial will have to take place prior to any civil action being heard.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, please contact Kathrin Coleman either by email or freephone us on 1800 844 104 to explore your options.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.
Irish Times article 04.06.2015 – ‘11% of women students believe they were sexually assaulted‘