Justice system 'must work harder'
The criminal justice system needs to work harder to address the needs of victims and witnesses, with less than half of crimes currently reported to police, a report has said.
The study by the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) group said progress had been made and recognised that the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont had to be allowed to bed down.
But its review found large numbers of witnesses cited concerns over attending court, while a significant minority of victims raised issues over how they were treated by agencies such as the police.
"Undoubtedly there have been improvements in the way the system interacts with and treats victims and witnesses," said chief inspector Michael Maguire.
"But there remains a significant number of people who feel dissatisfied given their experience.
"The inspectors heard numerous accounts from victims and witnesses who spoke of 'delays' in the system, poor communication and updating on case progression, a lack of co-ordination between the agencies and a general lack of support as people progress through the justice system.
"The treatment of victims and witnesses is a complex and difficult area for justice organisations, but the time has come for us to create more of a criminal justice 'service' that focuses to a greater extent on all the stakeholders in a crime, addressing individual needs as well as finding someone guilty or not guilty."
The report said that less than half (46%) of crimes are reported to the police.
It added: "Furthermore, while 71% of respondents ... were satisfied with their contact with the criminal justice system, 23% of all respondents indicated they were dissatisfied with their overall contact.
"The percentage of victims satisfied was 64% compared to 77% of witnesses. While the figure of 71% of respondents satisfied is above target and creditable, the corollary is that a sizeable number of victims and witnesses remain dissatisfied. There continue to be problems therefore in how the justice system treats victims and witnesses."