Press Release: DELAY OF IRISH GOVERNMENT TO IMPLEMENT EU VICTIMS DIRECTIVE IS IMPACTING ON THE RIGHTS, NEEDS & INTERESTS OF VICTIMS OF CRIME IN IRELAND

 

  • Delay in implementing legislation to give effect to the Victims Directive
  • Garda leaflet for victims of crime does not fully comply with EU Victims Directive
  • Lack of information for victims available through key stakeholders such as hospitals and GP surgeries
  • Access to shelters/emergency accommodation can be limited based on the victim’s residence
  • Concerns over the quality and confidentiality of interpreters and translators
  • Lack of funding to support advocacy services for victims’ rights

16th November – Today marks one year since the EU Victims Directive became law in Ireland, however the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill has not been published to date and failure to implement legislation is impacting on the rights, needs and interests of victims of crime.

Commenting about the delayed legislation, Maria McDonald BL, Coordinator of the Victims’ Rights Alliance, said:  “The Victims Directive must be transposed by legislation so that victims can access to their rights in full.  It is a highly significant moment as it gives minimum rights, supports and protections to all victims of crime for the first time in Irish law.  Despite being aware of the deadlines for the implementation of the Victims Directive into Irish law, the Government is over a year late publishing legislation. However, we would like to acknowledge that the publication of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill is due to be published in the coming weeks. We would ask that once published the Bill would have a swift passage through the Dáíl and Seanad so that victims are able to access their rights within the Bill as soon as possible”.

“Victims of crime have often gone through a traumatic experience and it is vital that they informed of their rights and about the services they can access. Some victims do not want to report the crime and they are entitled to the right to information and support services notwithstanding that they do not make a formal complaint to the Gardaí.  Unfortunately as things stand, the local authorities “Centre of Interest” requirement is arguably in breach of the Victims Directive. For example, access to emergency accommodation/housing can be limited based on the residence of the victim. This is particularly difficult for victims forced to leave locations because they are victims of a crime, such as domestic violence. We call on local authorities to remove the “Centre of Interest” requirement as a matter of urgency”

“We welcome an Tánaiste’s continued engagement with us, having received a briefing on the Victims of Crime Bill earlier this week, but we call upon the Government to ensure a speedy passage of the Bill once published.  We look forward to working and engaging with Government, the Gardaí and other key stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation and transposition of the Victims Directive into Irish law.”

The Victims’ Rights Alliance welcomes an Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald’s continued commitment to implementing the Victims Directive into Irish law and acknowledges the imminent publication of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill, which will legislate for victims’ rights for the first time in Irish law. Key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including an Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Courts Service and the Irish Prison Service have been working since 16th November 2015 to implement the Directive into Irish law.

The Victims’ Rights Alliance would like to acknowledge that over the course of the last year the Office of the DPP has provided reasons and a review of a decision not to prosecute in line with their obligations under the Victims Directive.

The Victims’ Rights Alliance welcomes the positive measures which the Gardaí have implemented to give effect to the Victims Directive, which includes the publication of the Garda leaflet and the establishment of the Garda Victim Liaison Offices. However, the Victims’ Rights Alliance is concerned that in its current format the Garda leaflet, which provides information to victims, does not fully comply with the Victims Directive. We acknowledge that the Gardaí intend to update the leaflet and their website; however, the delay in doing so has meant that some victims do not have access to information, such as information on support services which they are legally entitled to.

Victims can only access their rights if they are told about them. All victims of crime are entitled to certain information about their rights on first contact with the Gardaí. The Victims’ Rights Directive also envisages that other key agencies would provide information to victims of crime. For example, some victims may choose not report a crime, but they seek medical attention in hospital or with their GP. Information should be available in hospitals and GP surgeries on how a victim can access information, support and protection and how they go about making a complaint to the Gardaí.

The Victims Directive requires that all victims of crime have access to victim’s support services free of charge for a period, before during and after criminal proceedings. This includes access to support services which provide information, advice and support relevant to the rights and needs of victims of crime. It also includes access to counselling and shelters. Victims of crime who do not report a crime to an Garda Síochána also have a right to these services. The local authorities ‘centre of interest criteria’ for victims to be able to access support services is arguably in contravention of the Victims Directive. The Victims’ Rights Alliance is aware of instances where women have been turned away from shelters based on that fact that they do not reside in that location. This is particularly difficult for women forced to leave locations because of domestic violence. We call on local authorities to remove the “Centre of Interest” requirement as a matter of urgency.

The Victims’ Rights Alliance welcomes the increase in Budget 2017 of €250,000 for victims support services, but points out that this amounts to €4,630 per organisation. The Victims’ Rights Alliance is disappointed that currently there is a small amount of funding available to support advocacy services for all victim of crime, which advocate for the rights, needs and interests of all victims of crime. These advocacy services can provide information, advice and support relevant to the rights, needs and interests of victims of crime. The Victims Directive requires that these support services are available to victims of crime and the Government should fund them.

The Victims’ Rights Alliance has concerns about the quality and confidentiality of the service provided by some interpreters and translators to victims of crime. The Victims’ Rights Alliance is working with the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association to raise awareness of the need for such services to be provided in an impartial, respectful, confidential and professional manner.

Article 21 of the Victims Directive recognises a victim’s right to privacy. Ireland is under an obligation to establish appropriate ‘conditions to enable the referral of victims to victim support services, including by ensuring that data protection requirements can be and are adhered to’. The Victims’ Rights Alliance calls on the Government, Tulsa, the HSE and other state agencies to ensure that all data gathered, retained, obtained in relation to victims of crime adhere to data protection law and best practice. Critical to good data protection compliance that respect victims of crimes’ right to privacy is the relationship between various state agencies and between statutory and non-statutory agencies. Any data sharing in the victim’s or public interest must be proportionate and appropriate and always with due regard to the law and victim’s’ rights. The Victims’ Rights Alliance also acknowledges that its own members have an obligation to ensure that data relating to victims of crime adheres to data protection requirements.

ENDS

The views set out in this report do not necessarily reflect those of all member organisations of the Victims Rights Alliance.

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