Radical Changes Needed to Improve Services for Victims and Witnesses of Crime
Date: 03 July 2012
Reference: JUS 06/11/12
Much more needs to be done to redress the balance in the criminal justice system and treat victims and witnesses of crime in an appropriate manner. That is the message from the Committee for Justice in its report published today into the Criminal Justice Services available to victims and witnesses of crime.
Launching the Report, Chairman of the Committee, Paul Givan MLA said: “Having spoken to a wide range of organisations and individuals it is clear that victims and witnesses of crime face significant difficulties and their experience of the criminal justice system is often frustrating, demoralising and on occasions devastating.
“The Committee has made 30 wide-ranging recommendations which address the key issues and will greatly improve the service and support for victims and witnesses of crime at a time when they need it most.”
He added: “The Department of Justice is currently developing a new five year strategy. This will provide the opportunity to make the substantial changes required and the Committee expects the Minister of Justice to take forward our recommendations as part of the strategy.”
Key recommendations contained in the Report include the establishment of a Victim and Witness Charter providing statutory entitlements, mandatory training for all staff who interact with victims and witnesses, the introduction of Witness Care Units as the single point of contact for as much of the process as possible, the introduction of a minimum waiting time for witnesses and a statutory case management system to help ensure cases are dealt with as swiftly as possible. Other recommendations cover the need for better communications with victims and witnesses, accountability mechanisms to measure services provided to victims and witnesses and improvements to the physical environment available within courthouses.