Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Criminals may be fined to help pay for victims’ fund

Offenders could be forced to pay up to help victims of crime in Northern Ireland under new proposals.

As well as any prison sentence or court-imposed fine, criminals will have to contribute an additional fee to a support fund for those who have been wronged by the convicted.

The Victims of Crime Fund is expected to generate £500,000 per year for victims.

Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins outlined the new measures in a public consultation document.

“Victims and witnesses should be our top priority,” he said.

“They deserve the highest standards of support and services to help them come to terms with their ordeal and cope with the experience of court.

“The Government has already invested significant resources in delivering services for victims of crime.

“But offenders who cause the harm and anxiety experienced by victims also have a responsibility for making a financial contribution to the provision of key support.

“The creation of a Victims of Crime Fund could generate £500,000 a year and would improve services to those victims who are facing the prospect of a court case as well as those supported by local groups in the community.”

The levy imposed on offenders would range from £5 to £30.

Judges would have discretion to reduce the fee if the guilty party did not have the funds to pay.

The minister also launched proposals aimed at improving special measures for vulnerable and intimidated victims at court.

He said: “The proposals set out in this consultation document, including the extension of special measures to those under 18 and the provision of automatic eligibility for video-recorded evidence to victims of rape and serious sexual assault, will provide vulnerable and intimidated witnesses with better support and protection when giving evidence.”

The consultation documents are available on the NIO website www.nio.gov.uk

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