On the 21st of October the VRA will make oral submissions on the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence & Equality.
The VRA provided written submissions to the Committee in early August. They outline what changes need to be made to the Bill in order for it to comply with Ireland’s obligations under the Victims’ Directive.
Publication of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015
The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 was published on the 15th of July 2015. It legislates for the Victims Directive which must be transposed in Ireland by the 16th of November 2015. This Bill has been welcomed by victims’ rights group and the Victims’ Rights Alliance.
The Bill provides for minimum rights, supports and protections for all victims of crime, regardless of the residential status of the victim. The definition of a victim includes a family member who has lost a loved one due to a criminal offence. A victim will be entitled to the rights under the Bill regardless of whether a complaint has been made to the Gardaí or where the offender has been apprehended. Other developments include:-
All victims of crime will now be able to provide a ‘Victims Personal Statement’. Currently only some victims can provide a ‘Victim Impact Statement’;
A victim can bring a person of their choice and a legal representative with them in any interviews with the Gardaí;
Where the DPP and/or the Gardaí, as the case may be, decides not to prosecute an offender, reasons or a summary of those reasons should be made available to the victim, upon request;
Victims are entitled to a list of information on first contact with the Gardaí;
The Gardaí must complete an individual assessment of all victims of crime to ascertain if they need special protection measures;
The Gardaí are required to facilitate the referral of victims to victim support services;
The Bill legislates for the use of restorative justice services.
The Bill will need to be strengthening if it is to comply with EU Law. The Minister has indicated her commitment to continue to engage with the Victim’s Rights Alliance over the coming months.
The Minister for Justice and Equality held a round table discussion on the 19th of May 2015, in the Department of Justice on the draft scheme of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015. Maria McDonald BL spoke on the draft scheme and whether it is compliance with the Victims’ Directive.
What is clear is that the Draft Heads of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 needs to be strengthened if it is to comply with the Victims’ Directive. Currently the Draft Heads of Bill limits the rights under the Directive in certain instances. Furthermore, it does not deal with restorative justice.
It remains to be seen whether the recommendations which I made will be included in the draft legislation. However, the Minister for Justice & Equality appeared to be genuinely interested in relation to the implementation of the Victims Directive into Irish law.
Picture: from L to R – Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, Ms. Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ms. Maria McDonald BL, Barrister & VRA, Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan.
The VRA Report on ‘The Implementation & Enforcement of the Victim’s Rights Directive in Ireland: Ensuring the Consistency of Victims’ Rights for all Victims of Crime’ was launched by Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, at the Victims Rights Conference on the 14th of November 2015. The Report includes 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.
Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, with Maria McDonald BL, the author of the VRA Report – 14th November 2014
“Victim Support Europe would like to congratulate the formation of the Victims’ Rights Alliance. The EU Directive provides a milestone for the advancement of European victims’ rights, but will need full and comprehensive implementation in order to provide real improvements for … Continue reading →