Establishment of Victims of Crime Office and a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., today met with 40 groups that are involved in providing support to victims of crime. The Minister wished to hear first hand the experience of the groups on the ground and their concerns in relation to victims of crime. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the Minister to outline to the groups his Justice for Victims Initiative and to assure the groups that this legislative package was being progressed and is on course to be published in the Spring of 2009.

The Minister also announced that the Victims of Crime Office, a new Executive Office within his Department is now operational. The Office will have a key role in seeking to improve co-ordination and continuity of services to victims of crime, both by NGOs and state agencies, throughout the country and will have its own Director and dedicated staff.

A reconstituted Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime is a further element in the Justice for Victims Initiative. The Minister said "I am pleased to announce that Mr Ray McAndrews will be taking up office as the new Chairman of the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime. The Commission has been instrumental in the provision of funding for direct services to victims of crime, having provided for the disbursement of over €3.3m to non - governmental organisations providing victim services". 

The reconstituted Commission has been tasked with the continuation of this disbursal of funding to organisations that support victims of crime. It will assist in the development of strategies and policies to support victims of crime and in particular it will seek to improve cohesion and consistency of service and information available to victims of crime.

I am pleased that Ms Nora Owen, Mr Sean Lowry and Mr Michael Whelan have agreed to continue as members of the re-constituted Commission.  I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the retiring members of the Commission Mr Jim McHugh, the previous Chairman and Ms Marian Finucane who have worked with such dedication over the past three years to provide information and support to the victims of crime."

Mr Greg Heylin, who was present at the meeting, has been appointed as the first Director to the Victims of Crime Office.  Mr Heylin has worked in a range of posts in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and other Government Departments and agencies.  Speaking following the announcement of his appointment, Mr. Heylin said "I look forward to working with governmental and non-governmental agencies in developing and implementing a strategy which will improve the supports available to victims of crime. I hope that working together we can ensure that victims receive adequate assistance in the aftermath of crime".

The Victims of Crime Office can be contacted at 01 6028661 or by email at vco@justice.ie. The first port of call for individuals who are victims of crime continues to be The Crime Victim Helpline which can be contacted at 1850 211 407.

19 September 2008

Note for Editors:
1. Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime

In March, 2005 the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform established the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime with a remit to:
a) to devise an appropriate framework for victims of crime into the future and
b) disburse funding for victim support measures.
The Commission submitted their Framework Document – Recommendations for Future Structures and Services for Victims of Crime to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in April 2008. After considering the document the Minister decided to accept in full the recommendations put forward by the Commission and incorporate them into his Justice for Victims Initiative.
These measures included a reconstituted Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime - with a role to distribute funding to groups working with crime victims, as well as providing general oversight of services and promoting awareness.
The members of the reconstituted Commission are:
Mr Ray McAndrews, (Chairman), former Assistant Commissioner, An Garda Síochána,
Ms Nora Owen, former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,
Mr Sean Lowry, former head of the Probation and Welfare Service,
Mr Michael Whelan, Gemini Consulting,

Since 2005, the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime provided funding in the amount of €3m to over 50 NGOs involved in providing support to victims of crime, ranging from general services for all victims of crime to specialised services, including sexual violence, domestic violence, murder and human trafficking.  Funding of € 685,750 was granted in 2005, €885,250 was granted in 2006 and €946,125 was granted in 2007. The Commission expects to allocate a €1m in funds in 2008 to support victims of crime.

2. The Justice for Victims Initiative
The "Justice for Victims Initiative" provides a package of administrative and legislative proposals that will be of benefit to victims of crime including the following:-

Legislative Proposals
The forthcoming Criminal Procedure Bill will give effect to the legislative aspects of the Justice for Victims initiative.  The Bill reflects several major recommendations made by the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group and it is hoped to publish the Bill in Spring 2009.

The main issues to be dealt with in the Bill are:

(i) Revised provisions on Victim Impact Statements
(ii) Protection of persons orders (to apply between the person being charged and the end of the trial – similar in many respects to conditions on bail).
(iii) Re-trial of cases after an acquittal, where new evidence emerges.
(iv) Re-trial of cases after acquittals, where the acquittal is the result of ‘tampering’ with the jury, perjury, etc.
(v) Providing for retrials following appeals by the prosecution against rulings on points of law by the trial court (i.e. ‘with prejudice’ appeals).
(vi) New provisions to allow the prosecution to respond where the defence impugns the character of dead or incapacitated victims.
(vii) A requirement that the defence gives prior notice to the prosecution that it is going to introduce an expert witness or expert evidence – this measure will prevent ‘ambushes’ of the prosecution case.
(viii) A provision for agreed statements on the evidential value of an object, (e.g. a car, handbag,) to facilitate the return of the object as quickly as possible to the owner (who will, in many cases, be the victim).  

Administrative Proposals
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime’s Framework Document – Recommendations for Future Structures and Services for Victims of Crime and accepted the recommendations in their entirety.  The recommendations are:-

(1) that a new full time Executive Office for the support of victims of crime be established in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform;
(2) that a re-constituted Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime be appointed; and
(3) that a Victims’ Consultative Forum be established, representing victims’ interests, which would engage with the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime.

It is expected that the new Victims Consultative Forum will be established soon by the new Commission. The Forum will represent victims’ interests, and will  engage with the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime.