ABOUT US

I. The Victims’ Rights Alliance

i. Why was the Victims’ Right Alliance formed?

In August 2010, the first Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), pro-bono referral request was made by Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVIC). AdVIC sought legal assistance on the creation of a pilot scheme for a State appointed Victim Liaison Officer Programme. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) and Support after Homicide (SAH) later joined forces with AdVIC and the groups’ attention focused on the development of a draft Victims of Crime Bill. In December 2011, AdVIC, DRCC and SAH presented a draft Victims of Crime Bill to the Victims of Crime Office in the Department of Justice and to a representative of the Law Reform Commission.

The working group’s mandate shifted to developments in victims’ rights in the EU and to the implementation in Ireland of the Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA [hereafter the Victims’ Rights Directive]. In April 2013 AdVIC, DRCC and SAH drafted a survey which was sent to victims of crime in order to ascertain the consistency in the provision of information, support and protection to victims of crime. The survey provided some surprising results, the findings of which were presented by the working groups advocate, Maria McDonald BL, at the Victims Support Europe Conference in Edinburgh in May 2013. In August 2013 AdVIC, the DRCC and Maria McDonald BL contributed to the Country Report on Ireland on Protecting Victims’ Rights in the EU: the theory and practice of diversity of treatment during the criminal trial, which was produced by the Centre for European Constitutional Law & the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

The Working Group recognised the importance of the foreword to the Victims’ Rights Directive which encouraged NGO’s to work together on the implementation of the Directive:
“Member States should encourage and work closely with civil society organisations, including recognised and active non-governmental organisations working with victims of crime, in particular in policy making initiatives, information and awareness-raising campaigns, research and education programmes and in training, as well as in monitoring and evaluating the impact of measures to support and protect victims of crime.” [Emphasis added]

With this in mind the Victims’ Rights Alliance [VRA] was born.

ii. What is the Victims’ Rights Alliance [VRA]?

The VRA is an Alliance of victim support and human rights organisations in Ireland namely, Advocates for Victims of Homicide [AdVIC],the CARI Foundation,the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre [DRCC],the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network [GLEN], the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland,the Irish Criminal Justice Disability Network [ICJDN] the Irish Council for Civil Liberties [ICCL], the Irish Road Victims’ Association [IRVA], the National Women’s Council of Ireland [NWCI] the Irish Tourist Assistance Service [ITAS], One in Four,the Rape Crisis Network Ireland [RCNI], Ruhama, Safe Ireland  and Support after Homicide [SAH]. The Alliance was formed with one key goal: to ensure the Victims’ Rights Directive is implemented in Ireland within the proposed time frame, with all victims of crime in mind.

The VRA was launched by the then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the 15th of November 2013. This date was chosen as it marked a two year countdown to the implementation of the Directive. Since that date many more organisations have joined the VRA and many more organisations have expressed an interest in becoming members.

iii. What has the Victims’ Rights Alliance [VRA] achieved since its formation?

Since its launch the VRA has attended events hosted by Victims Support Europe in the EU Parliament, participated in working groups at an EU level and given numerous presentations, including a presentation at the Victim Support Europe Conference in Warsaw, Poland.

In August 2014, Maria McDonald BL visited Victims Support NI in order to examine the services which are available to victims of crime and witnesses in Northern Ireland. In September 2014 the VRA was present at an EU training workshop in Lisbon on how to apply for EU funding and at a roundtable discussion in Brussels on the implementation and enforcement of the Victims’ Rights Directive. On the 29th of September 2014 the victims advocate, Maria McDonald BL spoke at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police [CACP] Victims of Crime International Forum on empowering Victims through Partnerships in Ottawa, Canada. She spoke on Implementing and Enforcing the Victim’s Rights Direction and the Canadian Victims’ Bill of Rights Act in Practice.

Ms. McDonald was also invited to speak at the International Police Association Conference in Germany in October 2014 and the Irish Criminal Bar Association Conference in November 2014.

On the 14th of November 2014, the VRA in conjunction with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties led JUSTICIA network [the European Rights Network] hosed a Conference on Implementing and Enforcing the Victims’ Rights Directive. The Conference took place in the Pillar Room in the Rotunda Hospital, Parnell St, Dublin 1, Ireland. It was funded by small donations from Dublin City University, the Centre for Criminal Justice in the University of Limerick and Maynooth University. The conference was free of charge to delegates.

The Minister for Justice launched the VRA report on the morning of the conference, namely ‘’The Implementation & Enforcement of the Victim’s Rights Directive in Ireland: Ensuring the Consistency of Victims’ Rights for all Victims of Crime’. The Report included the results of surveys conducted by VRA members with victims of crime, in addition to a VRA assessment of the current provision of information, support and protection to victims of crime in Ireland analysed against the legal standards of the Victims’ Rights Directive.

The VRA was mentioned in the Fundamental Rights Agency [FRA] Report on ‘Victims of crime in the EU: the extent and nature of support for victims’ published in January 2015.

“In implementing the necessary quality management and funding measures, governments should prefer not to be seen as overly controlling NGOs or interfer­ing with their independence. They should strive to be seen as acting on objective criteria. One way to achieve this transparency and to foster trust in the objectiv­ity of decisions is to include private organisations in decision‑making processes, for example by setting up a council or a commission that integrates the main public and private actors dealing with victims. Such a body may take or prepare decisions on quality standards, on funding as well as on the development of policies in areas relating to the rights of victims. One such exam­ple in recent years is the Irish Victims’ Rights Alliance, an umbrella association of victim support and human rights organisations. The Alliance provides a platform for victims’ rights NGOs in Ireland to engage with rel­evant interest groups, including the government, on the implementation of the Victims’ Directive. It aims at ensuring that the Directive is implemented within the proposed timeframe, covering all victims of crime and actually making a practical difference to them.” [at pg. 66] [Emphasis added]

The VRA Advocate Maria McDonald BL was invited by European Crime Prevention Network and the Latvian presidency of the Council of the European Union to speak at an event in Riga on the 4th of March 2015 on secondary victimisation. She also spoke at the VSE Conference in Lisbon in May 2015 & an event hosted by the EUCPN in Brussels in June 2015 & she will speak at the forthcoming VSE Conference in May 2016.

The Minister for Justice and Equality held a round table discussion on the 19th of May, in the Department of Justice on the draft scheme of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015. Ms. McDonald spoke at the event on the draft scheme and its non-compliance with the Victims’ Directive. In October 2015 the VRA was asked to comment on the Scheme of the Bill before the Justice Committee and recommendations were made by the Committee to the Minister for Justice based on these submissions.

The Victims Directive was transposed in Ireland on the 16th of November 2015. To date Ireland has failed to implement legislation to give effect to the Directive. The EU issued infringement proceedings issued against Ireland in early 2016 for failure to communicate in relation to the implementation of the Directive in Ireland. The failure of Ireland to publish the Victims of Crime Bill is very disappointing. The VRA continues to engage with the Department of Justice and other key stakeholders in order to ensure that the Victims Directive is transposed in Ireland for the benefit of all victims of crime. We hope that the Bill will be published this term [September to December 2016].

 

iv. The Victims Rights Directive 

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA – the Victims’ Rights Directive – came into force on the 15th of November 2012.

It was transposed by the 16th November 2015. The Directive provides for minimum rights, supports and protections for all victims of crime. The Directive provides for minimum rights, supports and protections for all victims of crime.

  1. A brief summary of the content of the Directive is available here:http://www.pila.ie/bulletin/2013/july-2013/3-july-2013/guest-article-by-maria-mcdonald-bl-overview-of-new-victims-rights-directive/
  2. A Know Your Rights Guide on the Victims’ Rights Directive is available here: http://www.eujusticia.net/images/uploads/pdf/Victims_Directive_36_page.pd

The foreword to the Victims’ Rights Directive states that “Member States should encourage and work closely with civil society organisations, including recognised and active non-governmental organisations working with victims of crime, in particular in policy making initiatives, information and awareness-raising campaigns, research and education programmes and in training, as well as in monitoring and evaluating the impact of measures to support and protect victims of crime.”

The Victims’ Rights Alliance provides a platform for victims’ rights NGO’s in Ireland to engage with relevant interest groups on the implementation of the Directive. As envisaged by the Directive, the Victim’s Rights Alliance, has start a conversation with, and engaged with Government & relevant statekholders to ensure that the Directive is implemented for the benefit of all victims of crime.

v.The Victims Directive & the Right to Request a Review of a Decision not to Prosecute.

Article 11 of the Victims Directive states that a victim, depending on their role in criminal proceedings, have a right to review a decision not to prosecute.

The Victims Directive does not outline any time limit for requesting a review of a decision not to prosecute; however, in November 2015 the DPP issued Guidelines which outlines a time period to seek a review of a decision not to prosecute.

The booklet states the following:-
“If you are a victim, or a family member of a deceased victim, and you are not satisfied with the reasons for our decision not to prosecute, you can ask for a review.  The review will be carried out by a lawyer who was not involved in making the original decision.
You should write to us and ask for a review within 28 days of the date on the letter telling you of the reason for not prosecuting your case.  You should send your letter to our Communications and Victims Liaison Unit (see contact details on page 22).
Even if you did not ask us for a reason for the DPP’s decision, you can still ask for a review of the decision.  In this case, you should write to us and ask for a review within 56 days (8 weeks) of the date you were told of the decision not to prosecute.
In some cases the DPP may extend these time limits, but only if there is a good reason and it is in the interests of justice
“.[
The Role of the DPP, para 17, pg 16, available at  http://www.dppireland.ie/filestore/documents/victims_directive_publications/ENGLISH_-_Role_of_the_DPP.pdf] [Emphasis added]

 

vi. Contact Details

The Victims’ Rights Alliance includes:

For further information on the VRA please contact marianidhomhnaill@gmail.com

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