Advocates for victims of homicide Ireland - lobbying
prosecution, Criminal Justice System, Assistance Scheme
We aim to advocate for changes that will bring about a re-balancing of the Criminal Justice System, and recognition of the status of families of Homicide victims within that system. Families of Homicide victims, having experienced the Criminal Justice system, have found it lacking in fairness and balance.
We aim to ensure that a comprehensive and co-ordinated inter-agency support service is offered to all families
We have been regularly lobbying agencies and players within the Criminal Justice System over the last 4 years and have always been well received.
We believe that some of our objectives will take a long time to be achieved, but we are pleased to acknowledge that some changes for families of homicide victims have taken place over the last few years following lobbying by AdVIC and other victims groups.
- Reserved seating for families of homicide victims during a homicide trial.The family of a homicide victim will have seating reserved for them during a trial. This will be organised through your FLO and/or Court Support Service volunteer.
- Improvement in the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) role in a homicide case, due to specific and on-going training of FLO’s and to an increase in the numbers of FLOs. In March 09, 217 Gardai had trained as FLO’s and in December 08, there were at least two FLOs in every Garda District.
- Free legal advice for families of homicide victims via the Voluntary assistance scheme run by the Bar Council of Ireland
- Increase from 5 in 2005 to 90 in 2009 in the number of families bereaved by homicide who have contacted the Prison Service to be informed about any significant developments regarding the prisoner serving a sentence for the homicide of their loved ones( Parole board process, release etc). The process is still inconsistent, with many families of homicide victims being unaware about this service, AdVIC has met recently with the Prison Services and the Gardai to improve this situation
- Following initial meetings, the Judiciary have shown openness to listen, to learn and give an opinion on “the place of the families of homicide victims in the Criminal Justice system” as expressed in Anthony McGrath 2008. PhD Thesis. Faculty of Law, University College Cork, also in the invitation extended to AdVIC to address the 2006 Judicial Studies Institute National Conference and in the third lecture of the Honourable Mr Justice Paul Carney ”The Role of the Victim in the Criminal Process” in June 2008 at University College Cork
- Improved contact between the prosecution team and the families of homicide victims. Pre-trial meetings prior to a homicide trials have become the norm and daily contacts between the prosecution team and the family of the homicide victim are taking place during the trial so that the family can be kept informed of what is happening.
- In January 2008, the Director of Public Prosecutions launched the public consultation element of the Reasons Project, entitled ‘A Discussion Paper on Prosecution Policy on the Giving of Reasons for Decisions’. A submission to the consultation was sent by AdVIC. We were also invited to attend a seminar to engage in a debate of the issues. Following this extensive consultation process, we were delighted when the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to change the Office’s policy of not giving reasons to victims of crime for decisions not to prosecute. Since October 2008, for the alleged offences where a death has occurred, reasons for decisions not to prosecute, or to discontinue a prosecution, is given on request to members of the family of the deceased
- At a meeting in November 2007 between AdVIC and David G.Hickey secretary to the Criminal Injury compensation tribunal, AdVIC spoke of the complexity of the fatal injury application form. We were then asked to examine the application form and to make suggestions in order to clarify and make the form more accessible to families of homicide victims. AdVIC suggestions were sent by March 2008. Not all of our suggestions were adopted by the tribunal (expenses to be attributed to families attending trial was not), but many were and we think that the new form is a more comprehensive application form, with the addition of background notes to the scheme and easy to follow explanatory notes. Since March 2009, it is also available for download under the forms section of the Department of Justice
- In January 2007, AdVIC sent a Submission to “the Balancein the Criminal Law Review Group” which was followed by an oral submission in February 2007. Part of our submission was that the Victim impact statement should be available to families of homicide victims for all homicide convictions including a murder conviction. Chairman Dr. Gerald Hogan S.C. told AdVIC that the group was in agreement with us on that issue and would make it a recommendation of the report. AdVIC was very pleased when Minister of Justice Dermot Ahern announced the Justice for Victims Initiative in June 2008 with a new legislation (Criminal Procedure Bill 2009) to reform the victim impact statement mechanism in order to grant victim status to next of kin in homicide cases.
This is the latest correspondence received from the department of Justice: The Criminal Procedure Bill 2009 is on the A list in the Government's Legislative Programme and it is expected that it will be published early in the coming Dáil session
, Criminal Justice System
, Homicide Victims