Irish Tourist Assistance Service welcomes new rights for victims throughout Europe
The 16th of November 2015, marks the transposition date of the EU Victims’ Directive into law across the EU. The Victims’ Directive establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection for all victims of crime irrespective of where in Europe the crime occurs.
By 16 November 2015, Member States should have transposed the Directive into their national law. Although this has not happened in Ireland yet, we look forward to the introduction of the Victims of Crime Bill (2015). The Victims’ Rights Alliance (VRA), of which ITAS is a member, continues to work with the Department of Justice and Equality to ensure the full implementation of the Directive.
Visitors to a country who become victims of crime have specific needs and challenges that require immediate assistance. It is estimated that over 2 million people fall victim to crime while travelling in Europe each year. Cross border victims face issues such as language barriers, isolation, culture shock and the lack of familiar support structures. Many are not familiar with the laws of the country they are visiting or the criminal justice system. In addition they may be left stranded in a foreign country without the means to support themselves and this adds enormously to their trauma.
ITAS is the only dedicated national service in Europe offering specialist assistance to visitors to the country who experience crime. All victims including tourists will now have the right to be informed of and have immediate access to support services from first contact with An Garda Síochána. This is essential as visitors will not be aware of where to turn for help and it is vital that they receive immediate access to support.
In order to offer effective and timely information and support to victims, organisations are dependent on referrals. The Gardaí will be required to facilitate the referral of victims to victim support services. We welcome this and concur with the VRA that the referral process should not be subjective. The only requirement for referral should be the victim’s consent.
Cross border victims will now have the option of reporting the crime in their country of residence or in the country where the crime took place. They will also have the right to interpretation and translation which is essential in order for them to take part in criminal justice proceedings.
All victims will now be entitled to written acknowledgment of their complaint. From a visitors’ perspective it is extremely important that this is done at the time that they are reporting the crime as it is required by foreign embassies in order to issue Emergency Travel Documents.
Today we will enter a new era of victims’ rights. It will not be the legislation but rather the practicalities surrounding its implementation that will determine its success. It will only work with proper training for all involved in the criminal justice system, adequate resources and agencies and organisations working together.