Half of crime victims not told about support

Just over half of families of homicide victims and victims of rape and sexual assault say they were not informed by gardaí of support services, according to a new survey.

And seven out of 10 of these victims said they felt re-victimised by the criminal justice system.

Details of the survey, still to be published in full, are contained in a new report, Preventable Harm, published by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development.

In one of the papers in the report, barrister Maria McDonald said references to victims in Irish legislation were “sparse” and that there have been two “failed attempts” to implement laws on their rights.

She said that while there was a Victims’ Charter, published in 2010, this was “aspirational in nature and has no legal force”. Ms McDonald said victims have “no recourse” if the rights provided for in the charter are breached.

She said that an ongoing survey by Advocates for Victims of Homicide, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, and Support after Homicide, appears to show “breakdowns” in the provision of information to victims.

“Surprisingly only 46% of victims said they were informed by the Gardaí about victim support services,” Ms McDonald said.

She said the figure was lower due to the inclusion of rape/sexual assault victims, 89% of which said they did not receive information from gardaí about such services.

Ms McDonald said this extremely high figure could be explained by the fact that only half of them reported the crime to gardaí.

The barrister said victims who do not report a crime are not being informed about victim support services.

She said an EU Victims’ Rights Directive had to be brought into Irish law by November 2015.

This provides for minimum rights for victims, in the way of information, support services, and protection. It says that the support services must be free.

Ms McDonald said there were major concerns in relation to the prevalence of repeat victimisation.

She said the survey found that 52% of people said they felt intimidated or re-victimised.

According to the survey, 49% of victims stated that they felt intimidated/ re-victimised by the accused, while 72% said they felt re-victimised by the criminal justice system.

“The proportion of victims who felt re-victimised by the criminal justice system is shocking,” said the barrister.

She said the success of the directive will depend in large part on its implementation. She suggested that a Victims of Crime Ombudsman could be set up the to deal with complaints from victims that their rights have been breached.

* The report is available on acjrd.ie

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