Mr Woulfe said the courts system needs to return to a victim-centred approach.
“If people had a somewhat greater understanding and awareness of the system and its rules and requirements and the procedures — that might help to demystify the process and help people understand the reasons for rules and procedure,” he said.
“This might be as simple as practising lawyers speaking to clients in plain language, and again that is an experience some of us have [when] ringing a colleague about a case that’s on tomorrow.
“We often just wish they would talk to us in more plain language instead of the gobbledegook that goes on even between ourselves.”
He was speaking at a Victims’ Directive Conference held in Dublin where both Irish and international experts delivered talks about how to improve the legal system for vulnerable witnesses.
Mr Woulfe said the “goal” is to improve the experience of victims in our courts system through education and legal developments.
“Not only is the victim’s credibility being attacked but we are asking victims of sexual violence to speak the unspeakable in open court” Maeve Lewis of @oneinfourirish explains why vulnerable witnesses say if they’d known what was coming they would not have made a complaint pic.twitter.com/tEILfE0QET— ICCLtweet (@ICCLtweet) April 9, 2018
“It’s important to recall again that the goal should be to return to a more victim-centred approach,” he said. “It’s through legal developments coupled with education initiatives and attempts to demystify the legal process that we can improve the situation for victims and court users.
“It falls to everyone now, lawyers and other people involved in the criminal justice system, to redouble the efforts to ensure that the needs and the rights of victims are not lost and to ensure the implementation of an improved system which takes account of the needs of the most vulnerable.”
Mr Woulfe said that, because of the somewhat “disinterested and objective” nature of courtrooms, “it’s not too surprising then to hear victims saying they find the courtroom intimidating, alien, and strange”.
Also speaking at the event was Paul McGarry, chair of the Bar of Ireland.
He said: “It’s timely, I suppose, that we are discussing these issues now, but I suppose I should caution that although issues that are topical and newsworthy crop up from time to time and give these things a context and perhaps generate a little bit more attention, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the fact that they [media and public attention] will go away but these issues will remain.”
Margaret Tuite, European Commission co-ordinator for the rights of the child, also spoke yesterday.
She referred to the lack of data when it comes to crimes against children and crimes of a sexual nature.
“No data, no problem. Good and comprehensive data inform good policies and procedures and help us to learn,” said Ms Tuite.