Filter

Question

202. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the resourcing available for the court liaison service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51573/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): I want to assure the Deputy that I am very conscious of how harmful the consequences of crime can be for victims and ensuring victims are better supported by the criminal justice system is a priority for me.
Through the implementation of ‘Supporting a Victim’s Journey’, I am reforming our criminal justice system to ensure that victims are supported, informed and treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system and by everyone they come into contact with as part of their journey through it.
There are a number of different victim supports services throughout the criminal justice system to ensure that this is the case.
The funding provided by my Department to promote and assist the development of specific support services to victims of crime, includes supports related to court accompaniment. 
In this context, my department funds Victim Support at Court (V-SAC) which is one of the key NGOs that specifically provides court accompaniment services, and from 2021 has committed to a three-year funding arrangement which will help to ensure that their services can continue on a sustainable footing. My Department is providing  €148,041 in funding to Victim Support at Court (V-SAC) in 2021.
A total of €4.9m is being allocated to Victims of Crime under Budget 2022. This increase in funding will ensure that court accompaniment related supports funded by my Department are available to all categories of victims of crime throughout the State.
My Department is also reviewing the supports and funding of civil society organisations providing frontline services to identify where gaps exist and how to bridge them. This piece of work will be completed shortly. 
The Deputy will also be interested to know that An Garda Síochána currently has 28 Victim Service Offices, one in each operational Garda Division. These offices ensure victims of crime are kept informed about the progress of their case and the supports available to them.
Staff of these offices are the central point of contact for victims and are responsible for communicating with victims and prioritising their needs.
They supplement victim support activity already being undertaken by investigating Gardaí in the local Victim Service Office.
The Garda Victim Liaison Office is part of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau. It is responsible for developing and reviewing Garda policies on victim related issues and for supporting the implementation of An Garda Síochána's Victims Charter. 
The Office also engages with government funded victim support organisations, as well as with criminal justice and other state agencies, on ways to improve services to victims of crime. It also provides support to the Family Liaison Officers who are appointed to help and support victims of crime and their families in serious cases.
The Irish Prison Service also provide a victim liaison service. A victim of crime, a member of their family, or a third party person acting on their behalf can register with he Victim Liaison Office in the IPS in order to be kept informed of significant developments in the sentence management of a prisoner. 
Victims registered with the Service are provided with information on when the offender will be released from prison and about any form of temporary release. They are also informed about inter-prison transfers, hospital appointments and court appearances. Victims are also provided with information regarding an escape from custody, as well as being notified about an upcoming Parole Hearing and the outcome of it.
The Victim Liaison Officer can also provide victims with general information about the prison system, such as the regime in different prisons, remission on sentences and the operation of the Parole Board. The Officer deals with victims on a strictly confidential basis.
It is important to emphasise that the Victim Liaison Service is a voluntary service. It is a matter for the victim or their families to choose if they want to receive information about a prisoner. They can register with the service at any stage during the prisoner’s sentence and can also change their mind and "opt-out" of the service at any time.