· “Landmark new bill seeks to put victims at the heart of the Justice system” – Minister Fitzgerald
· Proposed bill delivers on Programme for Government commitment and transposes EU Victims Directive into Irish law
Tuesday 14 July 2015
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, has today secured Government approval for the drafting, on a priority basis, of a new Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill. The Government today approved the Heads and General Scheme of the bill which is being published on the Department of Justice & Equality website.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “This landmark new bill seeks to put victims at the heart of the Justice system.”
“The Bill will introduce, for the first time, statutory rights for victims of crime. It is time that the rights of victims are given full recognition in the criminal justice system”.
The Minister added: “The Bill will fulfil a commitment in the Programme for Government to enact legislation to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families, to ensure that victims and their needs are at the heart of the justice process and that rights to information, advice and other appropriate assistance are met effectively and efficiently.
“The Bill will also transpose into Irish law Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime."
The Heads of the Bill were prepared following extensive consultation by the Minister and her Department with statutory agencies, including An Garda Síochána and with advocacy groups representing victims, including the Victims Rights Alliance, Advic, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
The Minister stated: “I wish to thank all the agencies and advocacy groups who inputted into this process leading to the preparation of these heads. I will continue to consult with all the groups involved as we finalise the legislation and introduce it to the Oireachtas.”
Under the proposed Bill a victim of a crime (as defined in the Bill) will have rights including;
· The right to receive comprehensive information on the criminal justice system and their role within it and the range of services and entitlements victims may access from their first contact with the Garda Síochána.
· The right to receive a written acknowledgement of the making of the complaint by the victim giving contact details where further information can be obtained.
· The right to be provided, on request, with information concerning the progress of the investigation and any court proceedings.
· The right to an individual assessment to establish the measures, if any, that may be necessary for protection of the victim from any secondary or repeat victimisation, intimidation or retaliation and if they would benefit from special measures provided for in the Bill in the course of the investigation and or during any court proceedings.
· The right to be informed, on request, of any decision not to institute a prosecution in relation to the offence committed against them and the right to request a review of that decision.
· The right to receive, on request, information from the Irish Prison Service of the release, including temporary release, or escape from custody of any offender who has been convicted of an offence against the victim and who is serving a sentence for that offence.
Among other principal features of the Bill is a requirement that information be given to victims in clear and concise language. The Minister will have the power to require interpretation, translation or other linguistic assistance to be provided to victims where it is necessary to enable victims to understand and be understood in their participation in the criminal justice process.
There will also be a statutory obligation on the Garda Síochána, Courts Service, Director of Public Prosecutions, the Irish Prison Service and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to provide training to staff members who have contact with victims or complainants in the course of their official duties to a level appropriate to that contact so as to increase their awareness of the needs of victims and complainants and to enable them to deal with victims and complainants in an impartial, respectful and professional manner.
The Bill will amend the Courts Service Act 1998 to place a statutory obligation on the Courts Service to have regard to the special position of victims of crime as users of the courts and to include specific reference to victims in its strategic plans and its annual reports.
The Bill contains a number of other ancillary provisions including a power for the Minster to make regulations that may be necessary or expedient for giving effect to the matters provided for in the Bill.
Minister Fitzgerald noted that this bill follows on from the establishment earlier this year of new, dedicated Victim Support Officers in every Garda division nationwide.
The Heads of Bill are available at www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Criminal_Justice_(Victims_of_Crime)_Bill