The Crime Victims Helpline’s annual report for 2015 found that three quarters of the people who contacted it were the actual victims of the crime while many of the rest were friends or family members.
Gardaí were responsible for 3% of the contacts while 10% came from what were termed “other/unknown”.
The crimes which led to the most calls to the helpline were assaults (26%). That was followed by burglaries/robberies and thefts (20%) and harassment (14%). Child abuse, both historic and recent, led to 5% of the contacts while rapes and sexual assaults accounted for a further 4%.
Almost two thirds (63%) of those contacting the helpline were female.
The helpline said 40% of people wanted emotional support while a further 37% wanted information about the criminal justice system.
The vast majority of people (84%) contacting the helpline did so by phone. A further 11% sent emails, while 5% used post or text.
Michele Puckhaber, the helpline’s co-ordinator, said: “Hidden in these numbers are the stories of the people we helped. The father kept up at night with worry after his home was burgled while the family slept. The older woman who is too scared to walk to the shops or spend time in her garden because of ongoing harassment from her neighbour. The mother who is at her wits’ end trying to help her son who has become quiet and withdrawn after an assault.”
Gillian Hussey, retired district court judge and the helpline’s patron and chairperson, said: “While we hear from our callers of the high standard of service provided by gardaí, we also hear stories of how people feel completely let down by the justice system.
“The victim experiences that were highlighted in the report by Justice O’Higgins on the cases in Cavan/Monaghan resonated with what our volunteers and staff hear on the helpline.”
On a more positive note, the helpline said the development of Garda Victim Service Offices in 28 garda districts across the country had made a “tremendous difference” to the experience of victims of crime.
“The helpline has noted that since the introduction of these offices there has been a notable decrease in calls to the helpline where the caller is unable to make contact with the investigating garda,” said Ms Hussey.
The retired judge said the helpline would like to see:
- All victims of crime given prompt and relevant information about victim support services when they report a crime to gardaí;
- Any victim injured as a result of crime provided with information about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal;
- Every victim’s experience considered in the court; victims notified of their right to be present at the hearing; and that every victim who wishes to make a victim impact statement is provided with the opportunity.