Victims of crime need more information, says rights group

People often finding out in the media about accused parties being convicted

Minister For Justice Frances Fitzgerald said victims of crime had “not got enough recognition in our criminal justice system and need to be dealt with with more sensitivity, and kept informed about what is happening”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Inconsistencies in the provision of information to victims of crime about the status of investigations into their cases often meanthey find out in the media about the accused being convicted, a victims’ rights group has said.

Maria McDonald, of the Victims’ Rights Alliance, said there were serious deficiencies in the system when it came to the provision of updates, support and protection to those affected by crime.

She said the findings of the Garda Inspectorate on how the force dealt with victims of crime were similar to what has been reported to the alliance.

The inspectorate this week reported that while there were many dedicated members of the Garda who performed very well, the treatment of victims needed to be improved significantly.


For example, the inspectorate found the force’s performance in keeping victims informed about investigations was especially poor, with letters that should be sent to all victims to keep them up to date with their cases dispatched just 42 per cent of the time.

Ms McDonald said that “sometimes what can happen is the victim isn’t informed of a court date and they subsequently read in their local newspaper that there has been a conviction”.

Ms McDonald was speaking to reporters at a conference on a European Union directive on victims' rights which must be transposed into the State's laws before November 16th, 2015. It includes obligations to protect victims from harm and intimidation and provide access to information, services and compensation.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told the conference she intended to introduce "high quality" legislation next year to bring the directive into law.

‘Long overdue’

“I believe it is long overdue,” she said, adding that the measures would put victims “centre stage”.

Ms Fitzgerald said victims had “not got enough recognition in our criminal justice system and need to be dealt with with more sensitivity... and kept informed about what is happening”.

Ms McDonald said the EU directive presented “ a fantastic opportunity” to put things right for victims but that she was not confident it would, given the current issues in the system and the fact that the legislation had to be in place in a year.

“It’s not just the legislation, we need to make sure that it is being done in practice and that’s where the issue arises,” she said.

Ms McDonald said revictimisation was a serious issue with the majority of victims who engaged in the court system. They were not “necessarily feeling victimised by the criminal themselves”, but instead by the criminal justice system itself and “the way the barristers, judges and courts treated them”, she said.

Joan Deane, of Advocates for Victims of Homicide, said pre-trial meetings were vital for victims attending the courts because for most people it is "so far outside their experience there is no frame of reference for it".

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times