Justice Mary Ellen Ring opens conference on dealing with victims of crime

2 Oct 2015

Chair of GSOC Justice Mary Ellen Ring today opened the 18th Annual Conference of the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development, at The Spencer Hotel in Dublin.

The subject of the conference was dealing with victims of crime. This subject was chosen in recognition of the major implications of the implementation of Directive 2012/29/EU for all organs of our Criminal Justice System.

Directive 2012/29/EU, adopted by the European Parliament on 25 October 2012, becomes applicable in Ireland on 16 November. The Directive is about establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and commitments arise under this Directive for many organisations, including GSOC.

Today’s conference provided an opportunity for those organisations, and others, to think about steps to be taken to meet the Directive’s provisions and assist in the preparation of legislation (notably the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, which is currently in Bill form). It also provided a forum for the dissemination of information and discussion with international and national experts, through a number of plenary and workshop sessions.

In her opening address, Justice Ring spoke about issues such as good practice and restorative justice; and mentioned the challenges for the operation of the Directive and the resulting legislation into the future: the need to educate and train those who are dealing with victims; to be clear who a “victim” is; to be able to provide the necessary information to which victims are entitled, in an understandable way.

She spoke about how GSOC is carrying out a review of all procedures relating to dealing with complaints, insofar as they relate to victims of crime, and the provision of information to such complainants.  She said that we are considering how we will outline the information available to victims of crime and their rights in that regard.  A review of the documentation that is sent to complainants is to be undertaken, to include the rights in relation to information that flows from the requirements of the Directive. Language and procedures will be reviewed in that regard.

Already, under s.103 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 GSOC is mandated to provide sufficient information to keep complainants informed of the progress and results of an investigation.  The responsibility now will be to ensure all of our statutory requirements are being met appropriately and in a way that is understandable to all parties.

Justice Ring explained that, in relation to the Garda Síochána, GSOC admitted, investigated and closed 252 allegations of failure to fully investigate alleged criminal behaviour, so it is clear that victims already have recognised their right to complain about treatment by gardaí that was, to them, less than appropriate.

She explained that GSOC also provides observations to the Garda Commissioner on matters which arise in the course of its own investigations for the purpose of informing policy development and policing practice.  In 2014, following an investigation into allegations that a victim of serious crime was not kept properly informed by investigating gardaí, GSOC recommended guidance to members via the implementation of a national standard of updating of victims particularly where a criminal investigation becomes lengthy or protracted.  This was accompanied by a recommendation for further training for members regarding the needs of victims of crime.

Justice Ring was delighted to be asked to open this important conference. And, as part of the working group on victims of crime, GSOC as an organisation looks forward to continuing to play an active part in building a new approach in the future towards victims of crime in Ireland.