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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Mid and East Antrim PCSP meeting hears of support available to victims of crime

Mid and East Antrim PCSP logo with Victim Support NI logo

Victims of crime and witnesses are entitled to support services, a public meeting of Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) has been told.

Claire Campbell, from the Victim and Witness branch of the Department for Justice, outlined the rights of victims and witnesses as they proceed through the criminal justice system.

Victims and witnesses can get advice, support, practical information and learn about rights and services from the Victim Charter and the Witness Charter.

The Victim Charter sets out how victims of crime should be treated. The Charter is for victims, a bereaved family member or their representative and a parent on behalf of or instead of a child.

It applies from reporting a crime at the start of the process to the police investigation, the right to be kept informed, preparing for court, the trial and evidence giving, outcome and after the trial.

The Witness Charter sets out the rights and services that witnesses of crime can expect to receive. The Charter applies to witnesses of crime, both prosecution witnesses giving evidence for the prosecution and defence witnesses giving evidence for the defence; and expert witnesses such as police, forensic and medical.

“Rights include being able to understand what you are being told to being kept informed of what is happening,to have your needs considered, to being told about various types of support available to having someone with you to give you support,” said Claire.

The key entitlements of the Victims Charter include being treated with respect and courtesy, being told what is happening, receiving relevant information, translation and interpretation, being referred to confidential support services, PSNI interview only when necessary for investigation, being informed about a decision to prosecute, applying for compensation, getting property back as soon as possible, being able to make a Victim Personal Statement, being told if you have to give evidence at court, court familiarisation, being protected from contact with the alleged offender and dealing with people who are training in contact with victims.

“Your rights as a victim of crime must be respected. Your rights as a victim in Northern Ireland are laid down in law. Victims should be treated with respect at all stages,” Claire stated.

“Victims should feel as if they have support to bring forward any complaints they have to make.”

If a victim feels that he or she did not receive the treatment that he or she is entitled to, there is the right to ask the service provider to look into the matter.

Representing the Victim Support NI charity was chief executive Janice Bunting who said:

“Victims of crime or witnesses  can have quite a traumatic effect on their lives and do not know who they can turn to.

“Victims can self-refer and we can offer support no matter how long ago the crime occurred and regardless of whether the crime was reported to police.”

The meeting also heard that witnesses should receive “courteous, respectful, sensitive and professional and non-discriminatory treatment”.

“They should also be given information on the help and support available to them, have a case officer in the Victim and Witness Care Unit, be protected from contact with the alleged offender and afforded a separate entrance to court and separate waiting area, receive information on the date, time and location for giving evidence and how to claim expenses.

“Witnesses are also entitled to understand and be understood, to complain and to special measures if they are vulnerable. Witnesses have the right to free translation or interpretation and to bring someone with them for support.”

Victim Support stressed: “We can help you get back on the road to recovery following the trauma of experiencing crime as a victim.

“We can accompany witnesses into court and live link rooms. We can help make arrangements for witnesses with additional needs. We offer an after court support service for those who still need support once the trial is over.”

Contact Victim Support NI:

• Belfast Hub

T: 028 9024 3133

• Foyle Hub

T: 028 7137 0086


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