NI: Victims charity calls for criminal justice reforms

Geraldine Hanna, the chief executive of Victim Support NI
Geraldine Hanna, the chief executive of Victim Support NI

A leading charity supporting victims in Northern Ireland has called for a focus on “reforms to the criminal justice system” ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election.

Geraldine Hanna, the chief executive of Victim Support NI, made the remarks as she marked European Victims of Crime Day today.

Ms Hanna said: “As we approach elections and a new Assembly Mandate, it is vital that political leaders make investing in services for victims of crime a top priority.

“We particularly want elected representatives to help build consensus for reforms to the Criminal Justice System to deliver real justice for current and future victims of crime.

“We have met with and written to political parties urging them to commit to a series of improvements to ensure that Northern Ireland is a leading example of best practice in victim and witness care.

“These measures include specialised training for justice professionals, better use of technology and a single complaints mechanism for victims and witnesses.

“We are calling for immediate action to remove the un-necessary preliminary inquiry stage of committal as a matter of urgency.

“We believe that this archaic process serves only to further intimidate and traumatise victims of crime, in particular victims of sexual violence, and contravenes one of the key aims of the EU Victims Directive to prevent secondary victimisation.

“Additionally we would also like to see improvements to government structures and greater cross-departmental collaboration to address gaps in services particularly between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.”

She added: “Like many other sectors, Victim Support NI has seen a significant reduction to our budget, a massive reduction of some 25 per cent since 2013/14, and it is imperative that government takes action to protect future funding for the crucial services provided by the voluntary sector.

“We hope that senior politicians will listen to these concerns and take their responsibility to safeguard and improve services for victims of crime seriously as we enter a new period in Northern Ireland politics.”

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