159. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Justice the steps she will take to support the victims of crime going forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57791/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Protecting and supporting victims of crime is a key priority for me as Minister.
My Department is leading a number of important initiatives to ensure we better support victims of crime. When victims of crime begin to engage with the justice system, they should know what to expect, what their legally enforceable rights are, and the supports available at every step in the process. We are working to increase and strengthen the level of supports available and to ensure that victims are aware of, and receive, those supports.
These initiatives include -
- The publication earlier this year of an updated Victims Charter and a supporting website which sets out all the information a victim of crime might need in an easily accessible and user friendly way.
- A campaign to raise awareness of the rights afforded to people under the Victims of Crime Act 2017 is also underway.
- Budget 2022 includes the allocation of €4.9m to continue the work we are doing to support Victims of Crime. This includes the retention of emergency COVID-19 funding to support service providers. It will also ensure that court accompaniment related supports are available to all categories of crime victims throughout the State.
- An additional €1.1m in funding is also being provided for the Legal Aid Board to begin putting in place a legal advice and legal aid service in court for victims of sexual violence and funding of €1m is also being made available under the Garda Vote to support the Garda Divisional Protective Service Units.
- My Department will soon be inviting partners to a newly established Victims’ Forum for state, social and community groups.
These initiatives are, of course, in addition to my ongoing work to support vulnerable victims through the implementation of Supporting a Victims Journey and in the context of developing the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender based violence.
This includes a review of the funding available to civil society organisations and of the supports provided by them to victims of crime. This is with a view to identifying where gaps exist and how to bridge them. Specific geographical areas and categories of victims not adequately covered by NGO supports have been identified and we are engaging with relevant NGO partners to agree revised funding to ensure that we meet the gaps identified. This piece of work will be completed shortly.
I know the Deputy agrees that we need a criminal justice system that is victim-centred and this is what I am working to achieve. Victims deserve a system that supports them, keeps them fully informed and treats them respectfully and professionally for the entirety of the difficult journey they have to face. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues across government and with our partners and stakeholders to deliver what is needed to do this.