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DPP reviews policy of not explaining decisions

By Harry McGee, Political Editor
THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) confirmed yesterday that he is reviewing his long-standing policy of not giving reasons for his decisions to victims.

In a statement issued by his office in the wake of yesterday's report in the Irish Examiner, the DPP, James Hamilton, said the review had been going on "for some time now" and work on the project was well advanced. The statement made it clear that any review would not extend to making public statements on his decisions regarding whether or not to initiate prosecutions; the calling of witnesses and the admission of evidence.

But Mr Hamilton also made it clear he does wish to facilitate victims and their families as much as possible without causing prejudice or injustice.

"The office has long held the view that if some method can be devised whereby the Director could, without doing injustice, provide more information to the victims of crime of the reasons for his decisions, he would be very willing to put it into operation," said the statement.

The policy has been in operation since before the DPP's office came into being in 1974 and has led to controversy and public disquiet, most recently in the Wayne O'Donoghue case.

O'Donoghue, aged 21, was sentenced to four years in prison for the manslaughter of 11-year-old Robert Holohan in Midleton. Robert's mother, Majella, made a highly dramatic victim impact statement which asked why certain evidence - including the presence of traces of semen on Robert's hands - was not admitted during the trial.

Yesterday's statement from Mr Hamilton said the review had not come about as the result of any particular case. The DPP has been examining the issue for over a year now, the Irish Examiner understands.

It has involved the study of policies and experiences of other common law jurisdictions in this area. Public statements by the DPP regarding reasons why prosecutions were, or were not, taken are frequently made in other common law systems, most notably Australia. They are not uncommon in the British jurisdictions.

Mr Hamilton's statement stressed that a number of principles underline the existing policy.

"Ultimately, it may not be appropriate to change the existing situation. However the Director would not wish to pre-empt the findings of the review at this stage nor would he wish to underestimate the real difficulties in making any change of policy in this area."

Mr Hamilton's predecessor as DPP, Eamonn Barnes, never departed from the policy during his 25 years in the position.

However, Mr Hamilton has made some moves towards making his office more accountable and open.

 

DPP reviews policy of not explaining decisions

By Harry McGee, Political Editor
THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) confirmed yesterday that he is reviewing his long-standing policy of not giving reasons for his decisions to victims.

In a statement issued by his office in the wake of yesterday's report in the Irish Examiner, the DPP, James Hamilton, said the review had been going on "for some time now" and work on the project was well advanced. The statement made it clear that any review would not extend to making public statements on his decisions regarding whether or not to initiate prosecutions; the calling of witnesses and the admission of evidence.

But Mr Hamilton also made it clear he does wish to facilitate victims and their families as much as possible without causing prejudice or injustice.

"The office has long held the view that if some method can be devised whereby the Director could, without doing injustice, provide more information to the victims of crime of the reasons for his decisions, he would be very willing to put it into operation," said the statement.

The policy has been in operation since before the DPP's office came into being in 1974 and has led to controversy and public disquiet, most recently in the Wayne O'Donoghue case.

O'Donoghue, aged 21, was sentenced to four years in prison for the manslaughter of 11-year-old Robert Holohan in Midleton. Robert's mother, Majella, made a highly dramatic victim impact statement which asked why certain evidence - including the presence of traces of semen on Robert's hands - was not admitted during the trial.

Yesterday's statement from Mr Hamilton said the review had not come about as the result of any particular case. The DPP has been examining the issue for over a year now, the Irish Examiner understands.

It has involved the study of policies and experiences of other common law jurisdictions in this area. Public statements by the DPP regarding reasons why prosecutions were, or were not, taken are frequently made in other common law systems, most notably Australia. They are not uncommon in the British jurisdictions.

Mr Hamilton's statement stressed that a number of principles underline the existing policy.

"Ultimately, it may not be appropriate to change the existing situation. However the Director would not wish to pre-empt the findings of the review at this stage nor would he wish to underestimate the real difficulties in making any change of policy in this area."

Mr Hamilton's predecessor as DPP, Eamonn Barnes, never departed from the policy during his 25 years in the position.

However, Mr Hamilton has made some moves towards making his office more accountable and open.