The 22nd of February 2016 marked #EUVictimsDay. In Europe 75 million people become victims of crime every year; 1 in 3 women are subjected to domestic and/or sexual abuse. Today, Victims Support Europe launched a video on YouTube on victims support and victims rights in Europe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL1EyaeqGw8&sns=tw The video highlights issues faced by victims of crime. These issues are also experienced by many victims of crime in Ireland. The video also informs victims about what rights they have and that these rights can be enforced in a court of law.
On the 16th of November 2015, the Victims Directive became law in Ireland. The Directive provides that all victims of crime have minimum rights supports and protections for all victims of crime regardless of their residential status. The YouTube video outlines what some of these rights are. Ireland has to date failed to publish the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime Bill) 2015, which needs to be implemented to ensure that all victims can access their rights under the Directive.
On the 27th of January the European Commission issued infringement proceedings against Ireland after the Government failed to inform the Commission what legislation they plan to put in place to implement the Victims Rights Directive.
The Victims Rights Alliance (VRA) has expressed its disappointment that no legislation has been implemented to date. Today, EU Victims Day, the author calls on candidates and parties to commit to prioritising victims rights and the implementation of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 in the new programme for government so that all Victims of Crime have the full protection and supports afforded to them under the law.
Today Fianna Fáil launched a document which outlined what they would do to support victims of crime. They have indicated that convicted criminals would be required to pay a new victims’ surcharge and that these funds would then be ring fenced for a Victims Support Fund which would be paid to victim support services. A victims surcharge is something which the VRA has been advocating for a number of years. Under the Victims Directive Ireland has an obligation to provide victims support services, including shelters and counseling, free of charge for a period before, during and after criminal justice proceedings. A victims surcharge would be a means of funding it.
A similar victims fund/fine was considered by former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter but in that instance he indicated that the monies should be paid into the Department of Justice and then paid out to victims support services. The VRA has advocated for a number of years for the establishment of a Victims of Crime Ombudsman, similar to that in Canada. Any victims fund should go to establishing a complaints procedure, such as a Victims of Crime Ombudsman’s Office, which would deal with victims complaints under the Victims Directive in a quick and easy manner. The payment of a victims surcharge towards the Office of the Victims of Crime Ombudsman is something which is done in Canada.
On EU Victims Day Ireland needs to recognise that it still has a lot of work to do to ensure that all victims of crime can obtain all of their rights under the Victims Rights Directive. The implementation of legislation is essential for this to be achieved