Saturday 23 September 2017

DPP 'has no resources to tell victims why cases dropped'

Lack of resources means project won't be expanded to those affected by sex crimes

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has ruled out expanding a project where victims or their relatives are offered reasons why no prosecution happened in their case, blaming a lack of resources.

Currently the DPP can consider offering reasons in homicide cases and it had been hoped to expand this to victims of rape and other sexual offences.

However, DPP Claire Loftus said she did not anticipate this being widened to include other crimes "in the near future" as a result of "limited resources".

The development has disappointed support groups working with victims of sexual crime, who had expected the project to be expanded to that area.

Ms Loftus made the comments in her annual report for 2012, published yesterday.

She said increased demands had been placed on her office in recent years by a growing number of complex cases which were "resource intensive".

Since the so-called 'reasons project' was put in place in 2008, the DPP has offered relatives of victims an explanation for not prosecuting in 35 of 41 cases where applications were made. Three-quarters of these cases related to fatal road traffic incidents.

Only three applications for an explanation were turned down since the project started, one was withdrawn and two are still being dealt considered.

Eight applications for reasons were made in 2012.

Ms Loftus's comments raise doubts over whether Ireland can comply with an EU directive on dealing with victims of crime, which is supposed to become law by 2015. Under the directive, victims would be given the right to receive reasons for decisions not to prosecute in most cases, subject to certain limited exceptions. The right to receive reasons would apply to cases of assault, robberies, burglaries, harassment, rape, sexual assault, child sex abuse and murder. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) expressed its disappointment that the reasons project was not being rolled out to victims of sexual offences, calling for additional resources to be given to the DPP.

DRCC chief executive Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said: "When a victim doesn't know why a case isn't being progressed it can feel like they are not being believed. They can feel victimised all over again.

"We feel that it is not good for anybody. It is not good for the victim, it is not good for society when people are not given reasons. It can set people back in their recovery.

"So we would urge that the resources are made available to the DPP."

BACKLOG

Although the number of files sent to the DPP was slightly down last year, the volume of "increasingly complex cases" was increasing, Ms Loftus said.

She said international requests for assistance were also taking up more of her office's time. Some 223 requests for assistance were received from abroad last year, almost three times the number of requests received in 2010.

Ms Loftus said she shared the concerns of the judiciary over the backlog of cases in the Court of Criminal Appeal, noting that a referendum on a new Court of Appeal would take place next month. Currently it can take up to four-and-half years for cases to be heard in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Meanwhile, Ms Loftus also used the foreword of the report to warn the media about interfering with a person's right to a fair trial.

"The media and commentators have a high degree of responsibility to ensure that not only do they not commit a contempt of court by publishing or broadcasting prejudicial material but also that such publicity is not the cause of a trial being postponed for a long period, or even indefinitely," she said. "These risks increase as any trial date approaches."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News