Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hundreds of crime victims seek answers from DPP

Sexual offences top of list for requests by public to know why their cases were not prosecuted

Published 13/11/2016 | 02:30

Office: DPP Claire Loftus disclosed figures on victims Photo: Steve Humphreys
Office: DPP Claire Loftus disclosed figures on victims Photo: Steve Humphreys

More than 550 victims of crime have contacted the Director of Public Prosecutions in the past year seeking reasons for why their cases were not prosecuted in court.

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The largest number of requests were in relation to sexual crimes.

In around a third of cases where reasons were sought, victims subsequently asked for a review of their case.

The figures were disclosed by DPP Claire Loftus at the Annual National Prosecutors' Conference in Dublin.

Loftus's office has been providing reasons for non-prosecution on request since November of last year.

The move follows the EU Victims' Directive which took effect a year ago.

"While domestic legislation is still awaited, my office has been actively engaged since then in ensuring that the rights of victims under the directive are upheld," said Loftus.

"When a decision is made not to prosecute, the most significant of the rights now available to victims is upon request to receive the reasons for not prosecuting in all cases subject to some limited exceptions."

Before the directive was introduced, the DPP only had a policy of explaining reasons not to prosecute in fatal cases.

Loftus said 554 requests for reasons had been received in the past year.

"In broad terms, the largest number of requests for reasons is in relation to sexual offences, followed by offences of violence," she said.

"The third largest category is for theft and fraud offences.

"This is a very important process. I am pleased that this right is being exercised by so many victims.

"In a system where the independence of the prosecutor is enshrined in statute and referred to in the Constitution, it promotes greater understanding of sometimes very significant decisions affecting victims."

Loftus said approximately a third of requesters subsequently sought a review of the decision not to prosecute, with 192 such applications received.

The DPP said efforts had also been made to ensure victims are provided with more information on the progress of investigations and the court process.

"We are very conscious that while this office prosecutes on behalf of all of the people of Ireland, the victim is a vital part of that process," she said.

"We regularly consult with and obtain the views of victims in relation to certain steps being contemplated in a case.

"It is always made clear that while their views will be taken into account, the decision on what will be done is ultimately the prosecutor's.

"However even with excellent communication, the victim or the family is not always going to be happy with the outcome.

"There are very occasionally times when despite extensive time spent explaining the legal process and situation, a victim or family will not accept that certain steps or decisions have to be taken in a case, whether that is the decision not to prosecute, or decisions taken during the course of a prosecution."

In her office's most recent annual report, the DPP said that in 78pc of cases where no prosecution took place in 2015, this was down to insufficient evidence.

Other reasons included the use of juvenile diversion programmes or adult cautions.

Sunday Independent

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