“Bill will introduce statutory rights to information and protection for victims of crime” – Tánaiste
· Bill introduces new rights to information on progress of investigations
· New right to seek review of decision not to prosecute an offence
· Bill will require individual assessment of victims’ needs and introduce special measures to protect victims from further victimisation
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. today (29 December, 2016), published the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016, following approval by the Government on 20 December.
The Bill will transpose into Irish law Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime fulfilling a commitment in the Programme for Government to publish legislation to implement the EU Victims of Crime Directive.
The Tánaiste said “This 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”.
Under the proposed Bill, a victim of a crime 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.
- The right to be provided with information concerning the progress of the investigation and any court proceedings.
- The right to be informed 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 information on the release, temporary release, or escape from custody of an offender who is serving a sentence for an offence committed against the victim.
- The right to receive information in clear and concise language and to interpretation and translation where it is necessary to enable victims to understand and be understood in their participation in the criminal justice process.
“Under the Bill there is a focus on victims as individuals” the Tánaiste explained, adding that “each victim will be individually assessed so that any special measures necessary to protect him or her from secondary or repeat victimisation can be put in place during the investigation and during the court process.”
Special measures during investigations may include: advice on personal safety; including safety orders and barring orders; applications to remand the alleged offender in custody or seek conditions on bail; and interviews being carried out in appropriate premises, by specially trained persons and in the case of sexual or gender based violence, by a person of the same sex as the victim. In court proceedings, the possibility of giving evidence through live television link or from behind a screen will be extended to all victims who would benefit from such measures. The right to provide a victim impact statement will also be extended to all victims.
Other measures in the Bill will ensure that the particular vulnerability of child victims is recognised and that where a specific need to protect a victim is identified, a court may exclude the public from proceedings and restrict questioning regarding the victim’s private life.
“Being a victim of crime is a difficult and distressing experience. What these measures aim to do is provide victims with information and support to help them through the criminal justice process.” the Tánaiste said, adding “This Bill is an important step forward in supporting victims of crime and protecting victims, insofar as possible, from further victimisation.”