Thursday, 13 July 2017
Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016: Second Stage
The Minister of State is always extremely welcome here on his regular visits. He has come here today with extremely important legislation. It is transposing a European directive on victims of crime into Irish law. Much legislation coming here is a result of European directives, which is one of the great benefits of our membership of the European Union. The importance of looking after victims of crime is something we have not prided ourselves on; we certainly have not crowned ourselves in glory in that respect over the years. The first effort made to do anything constructive to assist victims of crime was when Mr. Derek Nally, who ran for the Presidency at one stage, set up an organisation called the Irish Association for Victim Support. At the time he got quite a bit of publicity. To be fair, it did very good work but issues have become more complex since then and they require a much more comprehensive response. It is a very welcome development that the rights of victims will be enshrined in legislation.
Much of the trouble victims have arises from not getting information. They might be constantly ringing a Garda station and not being put through to the people looking after the investigation. They might not know when somebody is going to get temporary or compassionate release. They might be walking down the street and suddenly see on the other side of the street the perpetrator of the crime on temporary release, which is totally unacceptable. It should not happen. To be fair to the courts and the Irish Prison Service, it does not happen as a rule. We will enshrine it in legislation to ensure it does not happen.
The Cathaoirleach will remember, as the Minister of State will from when he was Chairman of the joint committee dealing with justice, that we had a presentation from a number of victim groups. One that stands out in my mind was from a group that presented on tourists who were victims of crime. At that stage, there was a proposal for a designated office in the capital city which would deal with tourists who were the victims of crime. Perhaps the Minister of State might update the House on whether the organisation still exists and whether the work it hoped to do is being done. The problem with a tourist who is a victim of crime is that English may not be his or her native language and passports and travel documents may be stolen. In such cases, embassies would be involved and the process could become quite complicated. A designated "one-stop shop", to quote Senator Boyhan, to deal with victims of crime who are tourists in our country would be extremely important. It is bad enough for them to be victims of crime but if the State lets them down, it is double the crime.
By and large, the measures in the Bill are strong and welcome. I note colleagues have suggested amendments and those which strengthen the legislation would be very welcome. I appeal to the Minister to be proactive in dealing with amendments that come from colleagues on the other side of the House. Everybody wants to protect victims of crime as much as he or she can. We have a duty of care to our citizens who fall victim to crime to ensure they are properly treated and well looked after.
Senators Boyhan and Wilson mentioned the issue of minors and children being victims of crime. For too long in this country children have been the victims of crime and have not been listened to. It is great that the Irish Courts Service is taking a far more humane approach to dealing with children who find themselves in the very unfortunate position of having to give evidence. Most judges, from my experience or understanding, are tender and gentle in engaging with children.It is no harm to have these measures enshrined in legislation because it takes only one bad egg to spoil things for everybody. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that no victim suffers more than they have already suffered as a result of a crime. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will be taking all Stages of this legislation through the House because having served with him on the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality I know he has a unique understanding of the challenges faced by the victims of crime.