Judge: Justice Minister should be told about lack of support for crime victims

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern should be told about the lack of support for crime victims, a judge said today.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern should be told about the lack of support for crime victims, a judge said today.

At the Dublin Children's Court, Judge Clare Leonard received a letter from the upset mother of 13-year-old boy, who was left traumatised and needing surgery following an unprovoked attack by a now 17-year-old youth.

Judge Leonard urged the boy's mother to contact the Minister for Justice and the Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan, about “valid issues” she had raised in her letter that there was help “for the perpetrator of a crime, whereas the victim gets nothing.”

The 17-year-old youth has pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to the boy, in north Dublin, on October 25, 2008.

His case had been adjourned until today for the court to consider an action plan which was agreed by the Probation Service, the defendant, his mother as well as and the victim and his mother, to divert him from crime.

The victim and his mother met the accused in a conference arranged by the Probation Service where the effects of his crime were outlined to him.

As part of the six-month action plan, it has been agreed that the defendant, who was also accompanied to his case by his mother, would pay €1,500 in compensation, obey a nightly curfew, attend anger management counselling and not consume alcohol.

A letter from the victim's mother, who was also present for the case, was furnished to court, which Judge Leonard said detailed the “serious repercussions of the attack.” Her son has had an operation and would have to undergo further surgery to his nose.

Judge Leonard said the victim had been “traumatised”, “he does not go out now and suffers headaches” as a result of the attack. The mother had also expressed in her letter that support was given to the offender but not to the victim.

Judge Leonard told the woman: “I think you should send your letter to the Minister for Justice, I think you have raised valid issues here.”

“In one of them she points out that there are resources put in place for the perpetrator of a crime, whereas the victim gets nothing.”

She gave the letter back to the victim's mother and also urged her to send a copy of it to the Ombudsman for Children. The woman replied “I will do.”

Beyond the taking of an impact statement from a Garda, there was no help afforded to victims in many cases, the proceedings also heard.

Judge Leonard said the court would have little sympathy for the accused, who is due to start a training course, from which he will earn €100 a week. The youth, a first time offender, was remanded on continuing bail for sentencing in July.

Garda Mark O’Brien, of Howth station, had told the court that the 13-year-old victim had been crossing a road when the accused “struck him in the face.” The boy received a punch to the nose and had to go to Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Garda O’Brien also said that the teenage defendant “thought he was some lad he had a previous altercation with and after he realised his mistake, he went back to apologise.”

His counsel Mary O'Sullivan said her client was remorseful, intended to pay the compensation and follow the directions set in the Probation Service's action plan.

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