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Monday 19 February 2018

Victims' groups to lobby for own watchdog

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

AN alliance of victims' rights groups is set to lobby the Government for a dedicated ombudsman for victims of crime.

The formation of the alliance, due to formally launch in November, comes ahead of a 2015 deadline for the Government to transpose EU laws aimed at protecting victims of crime and their families.

It also comes days after DPP Claire Loftus warned that her office has limited resources to expand a 'reasons' project, which explains to families why some cases will not proceed.

At present, there are no laws in Ireland to protect victims' rights. Ireland does have a Victims Charter, but the guide has no legal force.

But under new EU laws, victims of crime must be told why a prosecution has ended or will not proceed.

Victims will also be entitled to request when an offender will be released from prison under the EU-wide Victims Rights Directive, which must be transposed into Irish law by November 2015.

Barrister Maria McDonald, who has worked extensively with victims including Support After Homicide, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Advocates for Victims of Homicide, says an ombudsman could provide a "one-stop shop" for victims.

Ms McDonald, speaking at a book launch on the directive hosted by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), said that the directive would apply regardless of where the crime was committed in the EU, the residential status of the victim, or the victim's nationality or citizenship.

"The legislation, if implemented correctly, will improve victims' experience of the criminal justice system in three ways by enhancing the right to information, support services and increased rights to protection," said Ms McDonald.

She said that "a substantial amount of work still needs to be done" to ensure that the directive is implemented fully within the 2015 deadline.

Failure to transpose the directive by November 2015 could result in an infringement action being taken by the EU Commission against Ireland.

Irish Independent

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