Friday 24 November 2017

Crime victims given power to question DPP rulings

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will seek resettlement for at least 520 migrants
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will seek resettlement for at least 520 migrants

Philip Ryan and Dearbhail McDonald

Victims of crime will have a statutory right to question the decisions of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), under new legislation being brought before Cabinet by Justice Minister France Fitzgerald.

The new laws will also give victims and families an automatic right to know when criminals are being released from prison.

The Irish Independent understands the new Victims Right Bill will have implications for gardaí, and could add another layer of scrutiny over the force.

The bill is being brought before Cabinet by Ms Fitzgerald to ensure Ireland meets the November deadline to comply with an EU directive on victims rights.

"The new laws are about giving more empowerment to victims and putting greater obligations on the criminal justice agencies to take account," a senior source said.

There is currently an obligation on the DPP to give reasons for decision taken in cases involving fatalities, but the new legislation will go beyond that - and give victims of other crimes the right to question its decisions.

The Irish Independent has also learned the Government sanctioned funds and personnel for a dedicated victims communications unit within the Office of the DPP. This is in order to meet the surge in requests for reasons from victims of crimes and their families.

The new laws will also give victims the right to information, advice and assistance when their case is being processed in the justice system.

Those affected by crime will be given more frequent updates on how their cases are progressing and automatically informed on any decision that might affect them.

Currently, families are forced to send a request to the prison services for information on when a prisoner is due for release. Under the new law, families will have a statutory right to be informed on an imminent release of a criminal.

Two years ago, DPP Claire Loftus warned in her 'Strategy Statement 2013 to 2015' that the office anticipated that the adoption of the EU directive into Irish law will have "significant resource implications" for her office.

While the number of requests on fatalities received has been quite low, the DPP repeatedly said the implementation of the policy has been resource intensive.

Irish Independent

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