Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed the Assembly’s support for the Victim Charter (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015) Order 2015.
The Victim Charter which was launched in January 2015 advises victims of crime about their entitlements and the standards of service that they can expect to receive when they come in contact with the criminal justice system.
David Ford said “As Justice Minister I am committed to ensuring that victims of crime are supported, are clear about their rights and have access to relevant information about the criminal justice process and the progress of their case. Central to this is making sure that victims have access to services that are fit for purpose.
“The support of the Assembly demonstrates a clear commitment to improving the services and support available to victims of crime. Ultimately we want to improve the experience of victims so that they are treated as we would all want to be treated. The approval of this Order will enable me to place the Victim Charter on a statutory footing.
“Combined with other measures that I am taking forward to speed up justice, the Victim Charter builds on good work that has been done to date. This includes the setting up of a Victim and Witness Care Unit, the introduction of Registered Intermediaries Schemes and a Victim of Crime Fund”.
David Ford continued: “I am also using the Victim Charter to transpose the provisions in the EU Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. In this respect the Charter forms an important improvement to the services that are provided to victims of crime”.
The EU Directive was published on 25 October 2012. The Directive is to be transposed by 16 November 2015, with the Charter placed on a statutory footing before this.
Notes to editors:
1. In June 2012 the Committee for Justice published their report into ‘The Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and witnesses of Crime in Northern Ireland’. They recommended that a Charter providing statutory entitlements for victims and witnesses should be introduced.
2. The DOJ took this recommendation forward through the five-year victim and witness strategy ‘Making a difference to victims and witnesses of crime – Improving access to justice, services and support’, published in June 2013. One of the key actions included in the strategy was to provide for a statutory Victim Charter setting out:
- how victims of crime should be treated and the standards of service to be provided by the organisations in the criminal justice system;
- how justice organisations would respond better to the needs of bereaved families; and
- clearly when information would be provided, how it would be provided and who would be responsible for providing it.
3. The enactment of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 and approval of the Order enables the Victim Charter to be placed on a statutory footing.
4. The Charter builds on recent work to improve services and support to victims and witnesses. This includes:
- the introduction of a Victim and Witness Care Unit, providing a single point of contact for victims and witnesses from when decision is taken to prosecute;
- Registered Intermediaries to assist vulnerable individuals with significant communication difficulties to give evidence; and
- new leaflets providing information for victims of crime when they report a crime, as well as on making a victim personal statement and sentencing following conviction.
5. A number of documents are available, some in alternative languages:
The main Victim Charter – a Charter for victims of crime;
- A Victim Charter summary (also available in Mandarin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Portuguese);
- An Easy Read guide to the summary Charter;
- A guide to the Victim Charter for young people by young people; and
- A victim of crime information leaflet (also available in Mandarin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Portuguese)
6. A Witness Charter will be brought forward and consulted on during the second half of the five year victim and witness strategy.
7. Registered Intermediaries Schemes to help vulnerable victims, witnesses and defendants with significant communication difficulties to provide evidence were introduced in May 2013.
8. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.
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