The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today published its advice and recommendations highlighting gaps in protection for victims of crime, and proposing legislative actions for the State to take. The examination of legislative proposals on the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 has been provided to the Minister for Justice and Equality and all Oireachtas Members, to inform the debate this week.
The recommendations point to the vital need to ensure that protections and supports for victims of crime are put on a statutory footing, as required under EU law.
The Commission emphasises the need for victims of crime to be supported in reporting crimes, to have prompt access to updates on their cases, and for protection to be provided to those most exposed to follow-on victimisation, such as children and domestic violence victims. The Commission highlights the need for transposition of the EU’s Victim’s Directive, which sets out minimum standards of protections, the deadline for which passed in November 2015.
The recommendations are made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission under its statutory mandate to review draft legislation to make sure it meets with human rights and equality standards, and to inform policy makers where legislation has implications for promoting and protecting human rights and equality in Ireland.
While the Commission welcomes steps already taken including the establishment of a new Communications and Victims Liaison Unit by the DPP, the establishment of a Protective Service Bureau and the Victim Services Offices by An Garda Síochána, and further funding allocated to victim support services by the Victims of Crime Office, the Commission states that:
- Services to victims should not be dependent on the victim making a formal complaint or an offender being prosecuted or convicted. (P5)
- Improvements are needed to improve reporting of hate crimes and to provide assistance to victims of hate crimes (P6)
- Special measures to support victims in providing information, such as allowing victims of sexual violence to be interviewed by a person of the same sex should be implemented. (P6)
- A single contact point would assist victims of crime to complain where necessary about their treatment in the criminal justice system. (P7)
- Restorative justice, if legislated for, should be accompanied by safeguards to protect victims from secondary and repeat victimisation. (P7)
- Reporting of crime should be encouraged and supported – with victims of sexual violence and persons with disabilities experiencing crime in particular highlighted as under reported. (P9)
- Victims should have access to clear minimum standards on information, and updates on their cases with coordination from agencies to provide this. (P10)
- Training is essential for professionals in regular contact with victims of crime. (P12)
- Certain groups of victims are at particular risk of repeat and secondary victimisation, intimidation and retaliation including victims of trafficking, victims of hate crimes, children, and victims of domestic violence who do not today have sufficient access to shelters. The Commission reports that there were 4831 unmet request for emergency accommodation for victims in 2016, and points to the need to ensure investment in supports. (P13)
Speaking today, Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“What we need to ensure, is that the support by trained experts, access to prompt information, and necessary individual protections are in place in law and in practice, to allow people to move beyond being victims of crime.
Chief Commissioner Emily Logan went on to state:
“The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has made this submission as we believe that this Bill can make a significant contribution towards protecting victims of crime. This is about ensuring victims are treated consistently, professionally, with dignity and respect, whatever the circumstances of the crime they have been exposed to.”
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Notes to editor:
The full submission of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 is available at the following link:
The 12 Commission recommendations set out in the submission are synopsised as follows:
- The Commission recommends expanding the definition of ‘victim’ to ensure, for the avoidance of doubt, that an individual may be considered a victim regardless of whether an offender is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the relationship between the offender and the victim.
- The Commission recommends amendment of section 14(2)(e) of the Bill to clarify that the basis of hate crime is not limited to the personal characteristics listed and may relate to other characteristics.
- The Commission recommends that section 16(1) of the Bill be amended to provide that the special measures shall be implemented in respect of victims of crime.
- The Commission recommends that information with regard to making a complaint should not be limited to breaches of the obligations under the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act and should be extended to instances where victims’ rights are not respected more broadly in the context of criminal proceedings.
- The Commission further notes that the establishment of a single point of contact for victims to register a complaint about their treatment in the criminal justice system would assist in securing greater transparency, consistency and foreseeability of treatment.
- The Commission recommends that where a decision is taken to provide a statutory basis for restorative justice in Ireland, the safeguards of the Victims’ Directive are incorporated as necessary.
- The Commission recommends that the State take measures to encourage the reporting of crimes and to ensure that the provision of supports services are made available to victims of crime who do not make a formal complaint to An Garda Síochána/GSOC in relation to a criminal offence.
- The Commission recommends that where, as is proposed under the Bill, different agencies are responsible for informing the victim about their case, minimum standards regarding the manner and timeframes of information-provision would assist victims in knowing what to expect regarding each update and would facilitate consistency of practice.
- The Commission recommends that the State provide the necessary resources and guidance to relevant bodies to satisfy the requirement of providing information, bespoke to the victim in question, on a case-by-case basis.
- The Commission recommends that State consider the need for coordination where multiple support services are involved and that oversight of service delivery ensures consistency in quality.
- The Commission recommends that the State build on current training initiatives to ensure that all professionals in regular contact with victims of crime receive regular training.
- The Commission recommends that the State give effect to the necessary legislative reforms to protect certain categories of victims of crime. The Commission further recommends that the State ensure adequate investment in practical supports, training initiatives and awareness-raising efforts, in order to yield discernible improvements in the lives of victims of crime and to prevent against repeat and secondary victimisation, intimidation and retaliation.
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission, i.e. to ensure that:
- there is respect for, and protection of, everyone’s human rights;
- there is respect for the dignity and worth of each person;
- a person’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice, discrimination, or neglect;
- everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to take part in the economic, political, social or cultural life of the State; and
- people respect each other, respect equality and human rights, and understand the value of diversity within society.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.