Under the new Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016, victims of crime will be able to avail of certain rights and furthermore review the DPP on decisions taken not to prosecute certain cases.
The Bill was published on the 29th of December and will go before the Oireachtas this year for enactment. It is a response by the State to implement the European victims of crime directive, therefore enforcing the rights of people subjected to crimes within the State.
The present unfortunate situation for victims of crime is that following an offence where a file of evidence is submitted by the Gardaí to the Director of Public Prosecutions, a decision is made based on that evidence whether to prosecute or not. The decision not to prosecute could be based on a myriad of varying different reasons, from defective proofs, to simply a lack of evidence upon which to move a prosecution.
In such a scenario, the victims of crime are left in a legal limbo without knowledge of whether there is a prosecution coming down the tracks at all and also without the power to question any delay in its arrival. We must acknowledge that this process only adds to the trauma and distress caused by the crime in the first place. We must also consider that they cannot not even question why the decision not to prosecute is taken.
Under this new legislation victims of crime will be entitled to access information regarding an investigation or a pending or current court case and will also be able to review any decision by the DPP not to prosecute.
Where applicable, victims of crime will also be able to request an assessment into their own personal safety and request any safety orders or barring orders where necessary. Victims will also have an input into the bail applications of the accused offenders and will also have the right to request garda interviewers be the same sex as the victims involved in sexual abuse cases.
If an accused is sentenced the victim will also have the right to know if they receive temporary release or if the perpetrator escapes lawful custody.
A Scheme for the legal costs of the victims in such scenarios has not yet been drawn up but it represents a welcome acknowledgement of the all too often forgotten voice in criminal proceedings.