On Monday, 21 June 2021, experts from the School of Law and for the School of Medicine at the University of Limerick, together with colleagues from the School of Medicine at University College Cork, delivered a landmark Disability Awareness Training seminar to senior officials within An Garda Síochána.
The special interactive, online seminar represented a key element in a wider, ongoing Disability Awareness Training Pilot Study which is being conducted by Dr. Alan Cusack (School of Law) and Dr. Gautam Gulati (School of Medicine).
The seminar, which was delivered by Professor Gautam Gualti, Dr. Alan Cusack and Dr. Valerie Murphy of the School of Medicine at University College Cork, focused on best practice approaches to identifying and responding to intellectual disability and covered the following key issues:
The training was attended by Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan (Eastern Region), Chief Superintendent Laura Mangan (Eastern Region), Chief Superintendent Alan McGovern (Human Rights Section), Superintendent Michael McNamara (Human Rights Section), as well as by members of the Human Rights and the Crime Legal sections of An Garda Síochána. Candidates on the School of Law’s MA in Serious Crime Investigation programme were also in attendance at the online training event.
All attendees at Monday’s training event will receive the option of a 1:1 follow-up session with the course facilitators to address any individual queries that may arise in their police practice. This training builds upon an identical Disability Awareness Training seminar which was delivered to candidates on the BA in Applied Policing Programme in April 2021. It is now hoped that this training will be delivered on a wider scale within An Garda Síochána in the months ahead thereby meeting Ireland’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The effectiveness of these training sessions will now be evaluated through the analysis of pre and post questionnaires. The results will be published in an international journal at the end of the year.from Cataline Devandas Aguilar (Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities); Ms Justice Mary Irvine (President of the High Court); Catherine O’Neill (Chair, Intermediaries for Justice); Kate Mulkerrins (Executive Director of Legal, An Garda Síochána) and Ray Byrne (Law Reform Commission).
Dr. Cusack delivered a paper entitled ‘Evidential Barriers faced by Persons with Disabilities in Criminal Proceedings’ as part of the ‘Courts & Legal Professionals’ session with Dr. Bronagh Byrne (Queens University Belfast) and Angus Cleary (Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain). The paper explored embedded barriers within Ireland’s criminal process which continue to prejudice addressed the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte T.D., and, James Browne T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform, at the National Disability Authority’s Annual Conference 2020.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Facilitating the Effective and Equal Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Irish Criminal Justice System (Article 13 UNCRPD)”. The conference focused on a range of important issues related to inclusivity, equality, justice and effective social partnerships.
The conference included contributions efforts aimed at securing the best evidence of witnesses with intellectual disabilities in court.
A video recording of the entire conference is available on the website of the National Disability Authority.