Victims of crime unaware of their right to key information
Victims of crime are entitled to crucial information including when imprisoned criminals will be released from jail and parole reviews but many people are unaware of these rights.
So far this year, just 156 victims of crime have registered with the Irish Prison Service (IPS) Victim Liaison Service (VLS). Any victim of crime for which the perpetrator is jailed is entitled to a raft of information about the inmate while incarcerated – but they must register with the prison service to receive it. The IPS acknowledges that many people are unaware of their right to information about imprisoned criminals.
“I would like to see more people become aware of the Victim Liaison service and to avail of it if they wish to,” a spokesman for the VLS said.
“People who use the service tell us how it benefits them; it informs them, reassures them and it allows them to feel involved in the process. They also appreciate that the service is fully confidential and that their privacy is maintained throughout.”
People who are victims of crime for which the offender is imprisoned, or family members or someone closely linked to someone who has died as a result of an offence, are entitled to the information.
They must register with the prison service for a raft of information, including release date, temporary release, parole reviews, escape from custody, court appearances, prison transfer and hospital appointments.
In just under a three-year period, from the end of February 2018 until the end of January this year, just 469 crime victims registered for the service.
A prison source said that victims seem “very unaware” and there is a mistaken belief that only those who have suffered from violent crime are entitled to information about their attackers.
“The reality is, you could be the victim of a burglary, fraud or a raft of other crimes and once the perpetrator is jailed you’re fully entitled to lots of information. This is not just about keeping the families of killers and other very serious crimes such as rape informed. This service is here for everyone.”
All persons registered are assigned a victim liaison officer who deals with them on a confidential basis.
The service is advertised on the IPS website and a booklet is due to be published in different languages in the coming weeks and distributed to various agencies including gardaí, the Probation Service and victims groups such as Advic and One in Four.
Victims are also entitled to give their input as part of parole reviews once registered.
An IPS spokesman added: “The Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) also provides registered victims with general information on the prison system such as the prison regime, remission on sentences and the operation of the parole board