Court help for victims of crime expanded

By Joe Leogue

A charity that offers support to the victims of crime when they attend court is expanding its services to districts in the east and south-east.

Victim Support at Court (V-SAC) provides court accompaniment services to victims of crime, their families, and prosecution witnesses in the criminal justice system for cases including murders, rape, assault, theft, and more.

Last year V-SAC offered support cases to people involved in 35 homicide cases, 123 rape or sexual assault cases, 48 assault cases, 76 domestic violence cases, and 62 other trials including human trafficking, criminal damage, and theft in the Central Criminal Court, along with the circuit and district courts.

V-SAC said it has also supported victims in 57 pre-trial visits, 65 sentencing hearings, 10 retrials, and eight appeals.

“V-SAC is the only charity in Ireland dedicated to supporting victims of crime at possibly the most difficult and traumatic time — when they have to go to court and face the person accused of doing harm to them or their loved one,” said regional coordinator Niamh Lambert.

“Most people are unaware that they are entitled to free support while they are attending court. We want to let people know that they are not alone and V-SAC is here to support them during their trial. Our service is committed to making the court process less intimidating for victims and witnesses, giving them a safe space where they can be apart from the general public and a listening ear if they need it.”

Ms Lambert said: “During 2017, V-SAC provided court accompaniment to over 1,200 individuals. This included homicide, rape and sexual assault cases, assaults, domestic violence, and human trafficking. The cases heard ranged from the Central Criminal to circuit and district courts.

“Demand for the service has grown year on year and that is why we are driving forward this expansion throughout Ireland.”

V-SAC said it also supports victims in pre-trial visits, sentencing hearings, retrials, and appeals.

The organisation’s volunteers provide support in all criminal cases where there is a victim involved. The services are free and available to anyone who has been a victim of crime and are due to attend court.

V-SAC has a permanent presence in the Criminal Court of Justice in Dublin and in Tallaght District Court and is funded annually by the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime within the Department of Justice.

A recent EU Victims of Crime Directive has established that the victims of crime are entitled to free court accompaniment during trials.

Those seeking more information can visit vsac.ie or contact V-SAC on info@vasc.ie or 085 8607739

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