Researchers at University College Cork are looking at the use of dogs in the Irish justice system to help children who have been the victims of child sexual abuse.

So-called 'facility dogs' have been used in the US justice system for over a decade to help children deal with the various stages of the criminal justice and social service systems.

Senior Law lecturer at UCC, Dr Conor O'Mahony, is heading up a project team seeking to introduce a pilot programme in Ireland. 

It is being run in conjunction with the Children At Risk in Ireland Foundation (CARI).

Dr O'Mahony says the criminal justice system "is not child friendly"

"Children who have suffered the trauma of child sexual abuse typically struggle to share details of their experiences with others and are likely to mistrust adults, which can hinder communication.

"Facility dogs can help to overcome this difficult in several ways by helping to calm the child and provide a bridge between them and a social worker or lawyer during question."

There are now 155 courthouse facility dogs working in 35 US states.

France is at the early stages of introducing dogs to support children in their justice system.

The Seattle-based Courthouse Dogs Foundation will outline their experience of using these dogs at a seminar being hosted by the School of Law at UCC later today.

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