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The EU Directive on Victims’ Rights – a very welcome instrument to begin the process of change in attitudes to the place of victims in Ireland’s Criminal Justice System
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Chief Executive of the DRCC said : “The 16th of November 2015 is indeed a momentous day for victims of crime in Ireland. It heralds Ireland’s commitment to implementing The EU Directive on Victims’ Rights. This directive addresses the imbalance that has developed, over some time, in the criminal justice system in Ireland. For far too long victims of crime have felt that their rights were totally lost in the criminal justice system. DRCC has always held the belief that acknowledging victims’ rights does not mean an erosion of the rights of the accused. We totally support a person’s right to a fair trial and to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Victims of sexual crimes, in particular, have felt that their experiences of the criminal justice process, further victimised them and in court they felt they were the ones on trial and not the accused. As a consequence, Ireland has the highest fall out between reporting sexual crimes and getting to court, in comparison with 11 other EU countries.
Ireland has a further 6 months to transpose the Directive into Irish Law. We commend the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and her officials in the department of Justice and Equality, for the publication of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre along with many other victim support groups, have also welcomed taking part in the consultation processes facilitated by the Minister and by An Garda Siochana, so that we could give our feedback on the Bill.
The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015, reflects in the main, the aims of the EU Directive which are to provide information, support and protection for victims of crime. Victims of sexual crimes will be heartened to know that if the DPP decides not to progress their case to court, she will now tell them why she has taken the decision. Up to now a victim was not entitled to have this information. In preparation for implementing the Directive An Garda Siochana has introduced 28 Victim Support Offices around the country. Part of their remit will be to be available to victims who need further information and who need updates on their cases.
However there are still a number of areas that need further strengthening so that the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 when transposed into Law will capture the full essence of the EU Directive. For example the DRCC would like to see included more emphasis on the requirement for ‘specialist’ training across the criminal justice system to include specialist training for the judiciary without compromising the separation of powers and the judiciary’s independence.
The EU Directive states that counselling be provided for victims free of charge. This is not included in the General Scheme of the Bill.
For this Bill, when it is transposed into Law in Ireland, to really have long lasting transformative effect for victims in particular and for a safer society in general, Government must be committed to providing the resources that are necessary to implement these new laws.”
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, Chief Executive, DRCC