Justice Minister Naomi Long has launched a public consultation on proposals to improve the experiences of victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system.
The consultation will seek views on two areas:
- a new three-year draft Victim and Witness Strategy for Northern Ireland, and
- proposals for the establishment of a Victims of Crime Commissioner for Northern Ireland.
Section one of the consultation focuses on a new draft Victim and Witness Strategy for Northern Ireland.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said; “I acknowledge that the process of accessing justice through the criminal justice system can often be daunting, disorientating and at times traumatic for victims and witnesses. I am committed to improving outcomes for victims in the criminal justice system and I want to do everything that we can to make sure that the system itself does not contribute further to the trauma that victims and witnesses of crime experience.
Since becoming the Justice Minister, I have focused on doing everything in my power to ensure that the needs and interests of victims are at the heart of the justice system.
Any one of us may at any time be affected by crime and so I am keen to hear from other groups, organisations and wider members of the public, in order to ensure that these proposed new measures will be as effective as possible in meeting the needs and interests of victims and witnesses.
This new draft strategy sets out an ambitious programme of work that is intended to improve our understanding of what victims and witnesses need and help us to meet those needs, and ensure that victims and witnesses get the focus, support and services that they are entitled to.”
Section two of the consultation sets out proposals for the establishment of a Victims of Crime Commissioner for Northern Ireland.
Naomi Long continued: “I have listened to the views of victims and their representatives, which have helped inform these proposals. This role would give all victims of crime a voice, promoting their rights as stated in the Victim Charter and raising their issues with both Government and criminal justice organisations. The proposed Victims of Crime Commissioner would promote good practice, as well as driving forward systemic improvements for victims of crime and contributing to a more cohesive, coordinated and victim centred criminal justice system.”
The consultation document has been developed with key partners across the criminal justice system, including representatives of the voluntary and community sector.
The Department of Justice welcomes the views of consultees on all of the consultation proposals, but also recognise that some consultees may wish to focus their responses on a single section. We have structured the consultation questions and the response sheet in order to facilitate this.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks from 6 May until 29 July 2021.
If you require a copy of the consultation in an alternative format please contact the Department by email DOJVictimsWitnesses@justice-ni.gov.uk or in writing to: Victims and Witnesses Branch, Victims Support and Judiciary Division, Department of Justice, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SG.
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