Rights of crime victims are ‘not upheld’

THE Government has failed to uphold the basic rights of victims of crime, according to an independent human rights watchdog.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said these could be put in place without compromising the rights of defendants and the criminal justice system.

The ICCL, which upholds the rights of defendants, yesterday published a detailed document outlining the human rights of victims.

The body said victims had rights, as set out by United Nations and EU law, including the right to information, protection, privacy, participation in the criminal justice system and the right to a remedy.

“The ICCL believes that the human rights of crime victims in Ireland are currently not sufficiently supported and protected in order to comply with international human rights standards.”

It said the Government had failed its obligations set out by the UN and the European Council Framework Decision of 2001.

In a series of recommendations, the ICCL said:

* The DPP should give reasons if a decision is made not to prosecute, unless there are “compelling reasons” not to do so.

* Courts should be safe for victims, including separate access, safe waiting rooms and a Garda presence.

* Garda escorts should be provided for any victim who has been intimidated or fears he or she may be.

* A court liaison person or “friend”, for victims.

* Specialist Garda sexual assault investigators should be in every district and every victim should be assigned one.

* Reliable sentencing.

The report said a properly funded Victim Support Agency promised by the Government, should be set up and that victims’ rights should be set down as “legally binding”.

The report said the current Victims’ Charter was about 10 years out of date and lacked mandatory status, which has been criticised by the European Commission. The researchers met 22 organisations who support victims of crime in some way.

“A recurring message which emanated from the groups consulted was a lack of initiation on the part of state actors in their role as information providers,” said the report. The report also said all victims had a right to protection from intimidation under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Pavee Point, which provides support to Travellers, said there was a problem of silent intimidation within the community.

The Rape Crisis Network said “low-grade intimidation abounds”, where victims have to share waiting rooms with defendants. The report said the services provided by the gardaí were “hit and miss” despite many good individual officers.


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