Belfast Telegraph

Sugden: Shame on those failing our victims

By Staff Reporter

Former Stormont Justice Minister Claire Sugden has said the warring parties should be ashamed for letting victims of domestic and child abuse down.

Ms Sugden said several important justice projects, including plans to tackle the scourge of paramilitarism and domestic abuse, have been left to languish because Sinn Fein and the DUP can't reach an agreement to restore power-sharing.

"Many important plans have stalled while the main parties decide if they want to run the country or not," said the independent unionist MLA.

"I have broken promises I made because of something out of my control. It is very frustrating."

A bid to tackle paramilitarism is one of many projects to have been shelved because of the political crisis.

The £50m paramilitary action plan was published in July 2016. It included a range of educational and community schemes aimed at deterring young people who are at risk of involvement with paramilitarism.

Ms Sugden said the plan "was only ever going to be effective alongside a Programme for Government".

"It was about trying to strengthen communities and for people to take back ownership of their communities," she said.

"Everything is just stalling while the main parties decide if they want to run the country or not. But the problems that exist in communities around paramilitarism continue, that fear continues. That is the sad thing about this."

She added that she had not been able to fulfil a vow made to victims of domestic abuse.

Ms Sugden had planned to introduce a new domestic abuse offence of coercive and controlling behaviour to bring Northern Ireland into line with Britain. The first stage of the new legislation was due to have been on the statute books last October.

"I made a promise to bring in a new offence of coercive control. That is a promise I have broken because of something out of my control," said Ms Sugden.

In addition, as hundreds of survivors of historical institutional abuse have been left without promised financial payments, Ms Sugden said the politicians should be "ashamed" for failing them.

The current Stormont impasse means that the findings and recommendations of a four-year inquiry into State and Church abuse have still not been presented to the Assembly.

"When the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry report was published in January, that was in the middle of all the political fallout and their voices as victims have been lost," she said.

"To me, the biggest failure of our government is that we are letting people down, victims down.

"I think we should be ashamed we haven't in some way gotten around to acknowledging or addressing their needs. That is what the government is there for - they are not there for posturing or playing political games."

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