Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration has been given to carrying out a survey of victims of crime who engage with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal with a view to ascertaining if those that engage experience a process of secondary victimisation or trauma due to the set-up of the system. [8586/19]
117. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if all staff of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal receive specialist training in dealing with victims of crime; and if not, the reason therefor. [8587/19]
118. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to clear the backlog of cases that has built up in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. [8588/19]
119. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the rationale for granting the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal a fixed budget of €4 million per year in view of the fact that this sum is perceived as insufficient to cover the quantum of annual payouts by the body. [8589/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 to 119, inclusive, together.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted. Under the Terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation.
The Deputy will appreciate that the level of resources allocated for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, as for any area of the Justice Vote, must be determined having regard to the overall budgetary context and the many demands for funding within the sector. Nevertheless, I can inform the Deputy that I have maintained the current level of funding of €4 million for a number of years, and again into 2019. Moreover, an increased allocation of some €2.4m was provided as part of a Supplementary Estimate for the Vote in 2018.
Applications to the Tribunal are processed with a minimum of formality compared to court proceedings where compensation is sought under the Civil Liability Acts. However, in making their decisions Tribunal Members must be satisfied that all supporting documentation has been provided and is in order, for example, Garda reports arising from criminal investigations and medical reports. The absence of such information can sometimes lead to delays in bringing cases to finalisation.
Tribunal members, who are practising barristers and practising solicitors in the Courts system, provide their services on a part time basis to the Tribunal. I have ensured that a full Tribunal membership has been maintained in order to continue to address claims as promptly as possible. The term of office for all Ordinary members has been extended to June 2019 pending the completion of a recruitment process for new members.
The Department's Customer Service Action Plan and Culture and Values Charter commits the Department to delivering public services to a high standard. I can assure the Deputy that staff in my Department receive appropriate training as required on an ongoing basis and as identified through the performance management process. All new members of staff attend a half-day induction programme which covers their responsibilities under the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviours, including dealing with the public. Specific training courses are organised from time to time in response to identified needs. For example, this month the staff of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal received resilience and stress management training due to the particular nature of their work. Suicide awareness training has also been made available recently to staff dealing with members of the public. I have asked my officials to identify if there are any further training needs specific to the Tribunal staff that need to be addressed.
The Deputy may also be aware that I have requested an assessment of the caseload of the Tribunal and have asked my officials to examine this assessment and to obtain the views of the Tribunal in this regard. Furthermore, in view of the length of time since the Scheme was last revised, my Department has submitted a request for a review of the Scheme to the Law Reform Commission (LRC) for consideration in the context of its Programme of Law Reform. I expect that this review should cover all aspects of the scheme including training of staff and the nature of the Tribunal's interactions with applicants.
More broadly it is the case that victims of crime not only in this jurisdiction but elsewhere can report dealing with the criminal justice system to be an intimidating and sometimes negative experience which can result in secondary or repeat victimisation. This is an issue which the Government is cognisant of - particularly in light of our obligations under the EU Victims Directive - and has been tackling in a comprehensive and concerted way to make it a much more victim-oriented and responsive process.