What is on this page

Read the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission response to the Department of Justice public consultation on improving the experiences of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system:

• a new three-year Victim and Witness Strategy for Northern Ireland; and

• the establishment of a Victims of Crime Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

Who is this page for?

  • Government Departments
  • Political Representatives
  • Organisations working in victims sector
  • Organisations working in justice sector

NIHRC Response to the public consultation on improving the experiences of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system

Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Date produced July 2021.

Below is a summary of the recommendations.

You can also download the full document through the links provided.

The NI Human Rights Commission:

2.5 The Commission suggests that a commitment to joined-up working is required to effectively develop and deliver a Strategy for Victims and Witnesses, including the issue of witness protection and recommends that this work is closely aligned to specific areas of work including but not limited to the Gillen Review, CSE Law Review, Hate Crime Review, Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act, Stalking Bill, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, and work to reduce delay in the criminal justice system, as well as relevant activity undertaken across other Executive departments and criminal justice agencies.

2.7 The Commission recommends that the Strategy is provided with ongoing, ring fenced resources and includes clear goals, targets and timelines to ensure a way in which to measure improvement.

3.2 The Commission recommends the Strategy takes a human rights-based approach, is guided by all relevant international human rights standards and that they are specifically referenced within the Strategy.

3.8 The Commission advises that the Department should undertake to ensure full compliance with developments in international human rights law and to keep under review national and European developments in relation to the treatment of victims, and that this should be reflected in the aims of the Strategy.

The Commission recommends that trauma-informed approaches including training is expeditely developed and sufficiently resourced within the criminal justice system to prevent re-traumatisation and secondary victimisation of victims and witnesses. Embedding this approach should be informed by the views and experiences of victims and witnesses.

The Commission continues to call on the Department to fully resource and implement the Gillen Review recommendations.

The Commission recommends that in addition to engaging with victims and their representative groups, the Department engages with civic society, alongside colleagues within the Department of Justice on the Review of Hate Crime Legislation and with the Department for Communities on the development of the Social Inclusion Strategies to ensure specific needs and rights are reflected in the Strategy.

The Commission continues to raise concerns about violence against women and girls in NI and supports calls for a strategy to address this. The Commission recommends that gender is mainstreamed through the Victim and Witness Strategy to ensure effective support and remedy for victims of gender-based violence.

The Commission continues to call on the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention and advises the Department to continue to work with the UK Government on achieving this goal, including ensuring that the resulting Victims and Witness Strategy is compliant with the Istanbul Convention.

5.20 The Commission recommends that a child-centred, trauma-informed approach is taken to develop specific support measures for child victims and witnesses to ensure children’s needs are met and their rights upheld. This should include development of the Barnahus Model.

The Commission recommends that training for legal professionals and all criminal justice personnel and support staff in contact with child victims and witnesses includes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Lanzarote Convention and an understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

The Commission recommends that the Department provides clarity on how the Victims of Crime Commissioner would operate; how they would relate to other Commissioners in the short and long-term; how independence would be assured; and the extent of the Commissioner’s powers which should include initiating his or her own investigations and to intervene and initiate legal proceedings.

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