DPP may explain decisions to victims' families

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) may be willing to explain his decisions in criminal cases to the families of victims, it emerged tonight.

The current policy of James Hamilton and previous office holders has been to keep the reasons for decisions private to protect the rights of the accused.

A spokeswoman for the DPP said that he had been reviewing the policy for some time.

“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.”

The sentencing of Wayne O’Donoghue for the manslaughter of schoolboy Robert Holohan last month raised fresh controversy about the role of the DPP.

Robert’s mother Majella questioned why evidence of semen on her son’s body had not been presented to the jury.

But the DPP’s spokeswoman said that the review of his policy had not come about as the result of any particular case, but had been ongoing for some time.

“The work on this project is well advanced and has involved the study of the policies and experiences of other common law jurisdictions in this area,” she said.

One possibility is that families will be given the reasons for decisions on condition that they do not make them public.

The DPP has previously argued that giving reasons for not proceeding with a prosecution could amount to condemning a person without trial.

He has also stressed the importance of a consistent policy because giving reasons for decisions in some cases and not in others could lead people to jump to the wrong conclusions.

The spokeswoman said there were a number of principles which underpinned the existing policy and added that 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.”


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