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Question

315. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if court day procedures are conducted in a sensitive manner from the point of view of victims and relatives of victims; if the practice of victims and their families often standing a few metres away from the alleged perpetrators of crimes in the foyer of the court building will be re-examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41338/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy may be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service. The Act provides that the Service is independent in the performance of its functions, including the provision of courthouse facilities.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquires made and the Courts Service has informed me that it is acutely aware of the importance of ensuring that victims of crime and their relatives are treated in a sensitive and sympathetic manner while attending court. In this regard the Courts Service provides facilities including dedicated waiting areas for victims and victim support organisations in many courthouses. This requirement is built into the design of all new and refurbished courthouses.
I am further informed that the Courts Service, where requested, facilitates courtroom visits by victim support organisations prior to trials for familiarisation purposes. It also assists with access to the victim support areas within courthouses and, where possible, in serious criminal cases reserves seats in court for victims. In the Criminal Courts of Justice there is a dedicated area for witnesses to give evidence to the Court by video conferencing where appropriate.
The Courts Service accepts that in some courthouses, especially those which have not been refurbished, the facilities provided are not ideal but nevertheless, on advance notice, every effort is made by the Courts Service to accommodate the requirements of victims in so far as possible given the infrastructure of these buildings.
In addition, my Department funds 50 non-government organisations that provide support and assistance to victims of crime. A substantial amount of the funding provided is towards the provision of a court accompaniment service to victims of crime and their families attending court. Since 2005, it has allocated over €630,000 to Victim Support at Court who provide a court accompaniment service for victims and their families attending the Central Criminal Court. In addition to practical support for the court case, they also refer victims of crime, their families or witnesses to other support agencies or organisations as appropriate.