Victim and witness care unit launched

Published Thursday, 08 May 2014
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A dedicated single point of contact for victims and witnesses of crime in Northern Ireland has been launched.

Victim and witness care unit launched
Barra McGrory QC and Justice Minister David Ford et al at the launch. (© Harrison Photography)

The Victim and Witness Care Unit's (VWCU) primary function is to keep victims and witnesses fully informed of the progress of their case and can also make referrals to other service providers if additional support is required.

Two bases at PPS offices in Belfast and Londonderry will deal with approximately 160,000 people a year, around 23,000 of which will be victims of crime.

The unit, which was started as a pilot in November 2012, will be staffed by 62 PPS and police civilian staff as well as two Victim Support NI (VSNI) representatives.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC was joined at Thursday's launch in Belfast by Justice Minister David Ford, PSNI ACC Mark Hamilton, VSNI Executive Director Dr Eugene McGuckin together with representatives from both the voluntary and statutory bodies including the judiciary, chair and members of the Justice Committee, Women's Aid and NSPCC.

This Unit represents one of the most significant developments of the past decade, in respect of enhancing the services and support available to victims and witnesses of crime in Northern Ireland.

Dr Eugene McGuckin, Victim Support NI

Announcing the establishment of the Unit, Barra McGrory QC said: "The establishment of the VWCU is a joint initiative between PPS and PSNI to ensure victims and witnesses receive a first class service and recognises the significant role they play in the justice system.

"It creates a single point of contact within the criminal justice system providing a clear focus for and on victims and witnesses.

"The Unit will communicate with them by their preferred means of contact provide timely and relevant information. It will also assess their individual needs and where appropriate offer access to additional services."

The new unit is the centerpiece of a five-year victim and witness strategy launched by the Justice Minister last year.

"The new unit is a major part of our response to feedback from victims and is already making a real, practical difference to peoples' lives," Mr Ford said.

"It is an excellent example of the value of working in partnership, with effective collaborative working between the Public Prosecution Service and the Police Service, supported by staff from Victim Support NI."

VSNI Executive Director Dr McGuckin added: "We firmly believe that improved co-ordination and communication between the Police, Prosecution and ourselves at Victim Support NI, will help us to respond to victims and assist us to address their needs in a more timely and effective manner.

"We hope that this Unit, with offices in Belfast and Foyle, will improve the experience of individuals as well as hopefully improving public confidence in our criminal justice system."

© UTV News
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