Crime victims urged to use new statutory rights

Victims of crime are being urged to use their newly granted rights to greater support and involvement in the criminal justice system.

An information booklet and a revamped website unveiled by the Crime Victims Helpline explain the changes introduced by the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 and encourage victims to make the most of the supports on offer.

Under the Act, introduced last November, victims now have a statutory right to written acknowledgement when they report a crime, a copy of their own statement, a point of contact within the Gardaí, and notification of all major developments in an investigation, including if and why a prosecution does not proceed and when any convicted person is given a release date from jail.

Michele Puckhaber, executive director of the Crime Victims Helpline, said while some of these services were traditionally provided as a courtesy, they are now a right and could not be piecemeal or left to chance.

“A lot of callers would have said they didn’t know what was happening with their case and they couldn’t get in contact with anyone,” she said.

“That’s understandable. The investigating garda isn’t always in a position to take a call or may be on leave or working nights.

“But victims now have statutory rights so where they might have difficulty getting hold of someone, there is a Garda Victims Liaison Office in each district that must do that for them.”

The Crime Victims Helpline received almost 1,900 calls last year, a 10% increase on 2016, and there were more than 4,000 contacts in total between phone calls, emails, texts, and post. 

Assaults, burglaries, and harassment were the top three offences disclosed.

“I think it’s a good thing that numbers are growing,” said Ms Puckhaber. 

“It means people are more aware that there are supports and that they have rights and they want to find out about them.”

The information campaign is funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund and the Department of Justice. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said it is a valuable aid to victims and those supporting them. 

The helpline contacts are: freephone 116006, text 085-1337711, www.crimevictimsrights.ie.


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