Thursday 27 July 2017

New laws will allow victims of crime seek a review of case

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

A victim of crime will be able to seek a review of their case if a decision is taken not to prosecute the offender.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is introducing a series of measures which are aimed at strengthening victims' rights.

The measures include requiring An Garda Síochána to make available a greater level of information to victims in relation to ongoing investigations.

Gardaí will be obliged to inform victims in detail as to why an investigation has been discontinued.

For the first time, in cases where no prosecution takes place, victims will be able to seek a review of that decision.

There will also be a requirement to assess each victim during the investigation and court process, in order to protect them from threats or intimidation.

Protections

There have been examples in the past whereby gardaí have investigated claims that key witnesses in trials have been interfered with.

But witnesses giving evidence at a trial will now be offered greater protections, Ms Fitzgerald said.

Courts now will have the power to allow a victim to give evidence by live television link, via an intermediary or from behind a screen.

In cases before the Children's Courts, wigs and gowns will be prohibited in court when a child victim is giving evidence.

The new measures in relation to victims were agreed as part of the Programme for Government and contained as part of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crimes) Bill 2016.

Victims groups have been calling for a strengthening of rights for many years.

Ms Fitzgerald said she believes the measures will be passed into law quickly in the new year.

She insisted the bill is an "important step forward" in supporting victims of crime and protecting people from further victimisation.

"This landmark legislation will strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families, to ensure that victims and their needs are at the heart of the justice process," she said.

"It will ensure that rights to information, advice and other appropriate assistance are met effectively and efficiently.

"The bill will introduce, for the first time, statutory rights for victims of crime."

Irish Independent

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