Dublin, 14 November 2019
Two years on from the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is hosting an expert conference to evaluate the impact of the new law. A representative from CARI, an NGO which provides support for victims of child sexual abuse, will tell the conference about their proposal to introduce courthouse dogs to help children and other vulnerable witnesses feel safe while giving testimony.
The Victims of Crime Act was enacted following an EU Directive which required Ireland to ensure respect for the dignity, integrity and privacy of victims of crime. At today’s conference, representatives from victims’ rights groups One In Four (on behalf of the Victims’ Rights Alliance) and the European Network Against Racism Ireland (ENAR Ireland) will give voice to the experiences of victims of crime since the EU Directive became law.
Maeve Lewis of One in Four said:
“We are interested in the way in which judges will implement provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2017 and the Victims Rights Act 2017. Despite positive changes, many of our clients still experience the criminal justice process as demeaning and re-traumatising. Much remains to be done”.
The gathering will also hear from An Garda Síochána. A senior garda representative will detail the supports victims are entitled to from the Gardaí.
The attendees at the conference will evaluate whether measures to improve access to justice have been implemented and whether they are protecting victims. These measures include the use of translators where appropriate, better access to updates about ongoing cases, and special attention for children and other vulnerable witnesses who are victims of crime. They will also hear from international experts, including Frederico Marques of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support, on how victims are protected in other EU states, including during restorative justice processes.
Liam Herrick, Executive Director of ICCL, said:
“Victims’ rights are human rights. Historically, there has been an emphasis on ensuring the rights of suspects in our criminal justice system, and that is of course hugely important. But it’s not a zero-sum game. The system can and must respect the rights of both victims and suspects. We’re hopeful that the conference here today will identify both gaps in protections and opportunities for improvements”.