29th December 2016 – The Victims’ Rights Alliance (VRA) has welcomed the publication of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 today, which puts victims’ rights on a statutory footing in Irish law for the first time. The Bill implements an EU Law, the Victims Directive, which was transposed in Ireland on the 16th of November 2015. The Victims Directive provides for minimum rights, supports and protections for all victims of crime.
Commenting on the Bill Maria McDonald BL, co-ordinator of the Victims’ Rights Alliance, said: ‘This is a highly significant moment for victims of crime in Ireland. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 will place victims’ rights on a statutory footing for the first time. We acknowledge An Tánaiste and Minister of Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald’s engagement with key stakeholders including victims support organisations which has resulted in the development of a comprehensive Victims Bill which transposes the Victims Directive and will change the way victims are treated within the Irish criminal justice system.’
‘For too long victims of crime have been overlooked in the Irish criminal system. This Bill will improve the day to day experiences of victims of crime In Ireland. We should highlight, however, that there will be difficulties in implementing the Bill. We cannot expect the criminal justice system to change overnight, a system which until now has failed to truly acknowledge the needs, rights and interests of victims of crime. A cultural shift will need to happen in order to ensure full compliance with the Victims Directive and the Criminal Law (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016. That is an ongoing process and the Victims’ Rights Alliance recognises the Government’s, the Gardaí, the DPP and other stakeholder’s commitment to placing victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. Their commitment is clear but it is essential that resources and training are provided to ensure victims’ have rights in practice not just on paper. The publication of the Bill is the first step to ensuring that victims of crime are treated with the dignity and respect’.
In implementing the Victims Directive, the Bill outlines how and when information, support and protection will be provided to victims of crime. It will enable a victim to be accompanied by a person of their choice when making a statement to the Gardaí. Key to reducing the incidents of repeat victimisation is the inclusion of a provision that a victim, who has special protection needs, cannot be cross-examined about their private life not related to the criminal offence. The Bill will also extend the principle of the victim impact statement (VIS) such that victims of crime, not covered by law relating to VIS, will be able to provide a written victim’s personal statement to the courts at sentencing.
You can hear Maria McDonald BL response to the publication of the Bill on RTE Radio 1 News at https://www.rte.ie/radio1/news-at-one/programmes/2016/1229/841699-news-at-one-thursday-29-december-2016/?clipid=2363173#2363173