Criminals should pay the financial cost of their crimes, Independent TD tells Dáil

Government promises legislation to assist crime victims

Independent TD John Halligan

Independent TD John Halligan

 


Independent Waterford TD John Halligan told the Dáil last night that criminals should be made pay the financial cost of their crimes.

He said the victim of a home burglary deserved justice in the same way as any other victim did.

“And if that justice has to come about by way of deductions from the criminal’s means of living, be it wages, pensions or social welfare, then so be it,” he added.

Mr Halligan said he had no doubt the argument would be made that his proposal infringed on the rights of the accused in some way.

“But I am more interested in defending the rights of homeowners than someone who wants to break into a home to make life miserable for them and steal from them,” he added.

Mr Halligan was introducing his Private Members’ Bill, the Restorative Justice (Reparation of Victims) Bill, which would force criminals to pay the cost of damage to property and medical treatment for their victims.

Mr Halligan, who received strong support from fellow Independents, said there was a need to send a clear message to burglars that there was a price to be paid for breaking into a person’s home.


Restoring losses
His Bill, he said, was a response to crime, focusing on restoring the losses suffered by victims and holding offenders accountable for the harm they caused. Mr Halligan said jewellery and cash amounted to about three-quarters of all material stolen in home burglaries. In some cases sentimental items such as wedding rings were stolen and could not be replaced.

“It would give some satisfaction to victims to know there is a price to be paid by those breaking into their homes,” he added.

Mr Halligan said he had spoken to many victim support groups, who wanted compensation to be paid and their voices heard.

“Victims need to be supported by the Government,’’ he added.


Difficulties
Minister of State for Enterprise John Perry, on behalf of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, said that while the Minister appreciated Mr Halligan’s efforts to bring forward the legislation he believed its acceptance would give rise to significant difficulties.

Mr Perry said these related to victims’ rights; conflict and overlap with existing law and proposed legislation; the rights of accused persons; and the practical difficulties it would create for the criminal justice system, especially An Garda Síochána.

He said the programme for government contained a commitment to enacting legislation to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families.

This would ensure that victims and their needs were at the heart of the justice process and that rights to information, advice and other appropriate assistance were met effectively and efficiently, he added.

Mr Perry said preliminary work was under way in the department on legislation to give effect to an EU directive on the rights of victims to ensure they received appropriate information, support and protection and were able to participate in criminal proceedings.

Comprehensive legislation, he added, would be brought forward to deal with the rights of victims.