Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Groups demand better trauma support

The groups say better support services are needed for those affected by bereavement, crime and violence
The groups say better support services are needed for those affected by bereavement, crime and violence

Free bereavement counselling must be offered to victims of crime who suffer traumatic events, support groups claim.

Better support services are also needed for those affected by crime and violence, including those who do not make a formal complaint to gardai.

The calls were made by nine organisations as they formed the Victims' Rights Alliance.

They aim to make sure Ireland implements a new Europe-wide directive that will give support, protection and rights to victims of crime.

Barrister Maria McDonald said the groups joined forces because of inconsistencies in the way in which they provide information.

"We would hope that Ireland not only meets the standards set out by the EU Directive, but also surpasses them in terms of treating victims with the respect and dignity they deserve," she said.

"What is of vital importance is that the EU directive is transposed into Irish law.

"If that doesn't happen, then arguably very little may change for victims of crime."

The EU Victims' Rights Directive was adopted by Europe last November and must be implemented by all national governments by November 2015.

The alliance includes Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVIC), Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Irish Road Victims' Association, Irish Tourist Assistance Service, One in Four, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Safe Ireland, and Support after Homicide.

AdVIC's Joan Deane said there needs to be adequate support services for victims of crime, particularly families of homicide victims.

She revealed that under the current system the only bereavement counselling available to families of homicide victims is a subsidised service run by the organisation.

"There is clearly a need to provide counselling services to anyone who has been affected by a traumatic crime," Ms Deane said.

"Homicide leaves a lasting impact, our own research has shown that 63% of families of victims of homicide seek counselling and often suffer disruptions to their personal and working life.

"Under the EU Directive, bereavement counselling should be provided for free, so we want to work closely with the Government to ensure that adequate services are provided."

The Irish organisations also want an ombudsman's post to be created to deal with any breach of victim's rights under the new directive.

Sharon O'Halloran, of domestic violence charity Safe Ireland, added: "It is critical that the thousands of women who have been living with the terror of violence in their homes have access to a justice system that they can trust, that treats the crime they are living with seriously at all times, and that recognises the lifelong impact, dangers and pervasive nature of domestic violence.

"A justice system that is equipped with the highest levels of training and professionalism in line with objectives of the EU Victims Directive will provide this vital security and safety."

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