News

Victims forced to face attackers as gardai don't have one-way mirrors

Rapist Robert Melia
Rapist Robert Melia

VICTIMS of sex attacks and other traumatic crimes are still forced to face their attackers in “barbaric” identity parades, because not a single Garda station in the country has a one-way mirror.

Campaigners have called on authorities to introduce the mirrors in Garda stations so rape victims don’t have to come face-to-face with their attackers to identify them. 

Victims of sexual assaults in countries such as Britain and the U.S. can identify their attacker from behind a one-way mirror or through virtual identity parades, but in Ireland victims have to stand inches away from rapists and point them out.

Despite the fact a government task force strongly recommended their introduction 19 years ago, nothing has been done.  

 

Debbie Cole (47), who was raped by serial offender Robert Melia (50), outside her home in Ballymun in 1989, in an ordeal that lasted for an hour-and-a-half, has said it is astonishing that victims of rape still have to come face-to-face with their attackers in identity parades in Ireland.

“It’s horrific that a rape victim has to go through standing in a room to identify their attacker. It feels like another crime in itself. It should be against human rights to force them to do it. It’s barbaric,” she said.

Debbie said she was calling on justice minister Charlie Flanagan, who previously called for the introduction of such mirrors while in opposition, to do something now. 

“It would be so traumatic,” she said. “There is enough money in the government for trivial things so they should find it for this.”

She said some victims who meet their attacker in identity parades then have to see them in public before the trial. 

“If both the victim and perpetrator live in a small village or town, the perpetrator is walking past them in the street or maybe drinking in the pub and laughing at them.”

Debbie said it is difficult enough to get victims to come forward in the first place without having to subject them to the ordeal of standing in front of their attacker. 

“I worked with the Rape Crisis Centre as a support worker. I would go over and meet victims in the sexual assault unit. 

“There were so many cases where the victim didn’t want to tell the guards because they were afraid of intimidation. There were some cases when they were there on their own. They were afraid to tell in case they weren’t believed.”

While in opposition nine years ago, Flanagan demanded the introduction of one-way mirrors in Garda stations. 

 

“Victims have been abandoned,” said Mr Flanagan. “This should have been done long ago. All-party agreement was reached, but there doesn’t seem to be the political will to implement it. 

“It is another example of the complete lack of joined-up thinking.”

Mr Flanagan added that issues such as open identity parades deter victims from proceeding with complaints. 

“I have had people express their utter fear of making complaints because they are terrified of retribution.”

He said the cost of implementing the measures would be small.

A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment on the issue this week other than to say it was “an operational matter” for Gardaí.

The spokesman also said Flanagan would not be commenting. 

“The request has gone by the minister’s advisors and all that. We would have nothing to say on that. That is the stance on it.”

Back in 2008 a Department of Justice spokesman said plans were underway to do away with face-to-face identity parades. 

“There are a number of options that Gardaí are looking at and once they pick an option the traditional identity parade will be done away with,” said the spokesman.