The Victims charter and guide to the Criminal Justice System 1999 committed to giving victims of crime a central place in the criminal justice system, yet after nine years we are still waiting for legislative reform to establish these principles. Last week outside of this chamber we had much trumpeting by the Minister for Justice Equality & Law Reform of a major new initiative for victims of crime.

I note from his press release he talks about a ‘new groundbreaking Bill’ to be drafted and presented to the Oireachtas by spring of next year.

That’s some groundbreaking

Ten years and we may have legislation on the books. This is the type of groundbreaking attitude of a Government so jaded, so detached, and so arrogant that it favours the press conference and the creation of an impression over actually rolling up its sleeves and getting on with the work.

I note also from the Minister’s release of last week that he makes much of his Department’s disbursement of funds. Are we supposed to applaud the Minister and his Department because they have allocated €2.5 million to groups engaged in providing support to victims of crime? The people to applaud here are those that establish these services voluntarily and provide those services in largely the same manner. Is this paltry allocation supposed to placate those that have requested this type of legislation over many years, those that feel it is just not good enough to sail on with the occasional announcement of one of these ‘groundbreaking initiatives’. This now old style politics of throwing a few bob to people to keep them quiet and Government by Press Conference and Perception is I hope, on its way out.

The Minister last week made disparaging reference to Deputy Shatter’s initiative as ‘legislation by Google’ and ‘a copying of the New Zealand system’. No groundbreaking here, rather groundhog-day, the same old predictable stuff.

It is quite interesting to note that in his own Department with their recent comprehensive review on Youth Justice, that the jurisdictions of Northern Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Scotland and Denmark were examined and conclusions in order to develop an Irish strategy were acknowledged from ‘a wide range of published material’.

Are we now about to experience the most dynamic incumbent ever in the Department of Justice Equality & Law Reform, the man who will single handedly write all legislation, I suspect not

I must say I would prefer to have a piece of Draft legislation before me in this Oireachtas that was properly researched by whatever means and using elements of International best practise than wait for 10 years for one Commission after another to come up with its findings.

The Minister with all his resources including Executive Offices in the Department of Justice Equality & Law reform, The Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, The Victims of Crime Consultative Forum, The Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group, The DPP and The Offices of the Attorney General has merely indicated that it is his intention to have legislation published in the Spring of 2009. This is the same Minister who only two months ago managed to turn much of his Government’s Acute Hospital policy for the North East on its head with his talk of ‘not a red cent in the coffers’. Truly inspiring stuff.

I congratulate Deputy Shatter on his initiative in this matter, for too long the victims of crime have not seemingly had the support of both the law and the institutions of the State on their side. This piece of proposed legislation goes in some way towards redressing that balance and dealing with all impacts that the committing of a crime actually has.

The specific elements of the proposed legislation have been outlined during this debate. These are distinct measures that for the first time enshrine the rights of a victim in Irish law. Having the legislation on the Statute Books is one important conclusion in this process. Sending out the clear message in adopting this legislation that a citizen as a victim of crime can expect to be treated properly by the State is of equal importance and will go some way towards altering the imbalances we now experience in our Criminal Justice system. I support this motion