Creating a victim-centred approach as part of an “integrated criminal justice system” is one of the main goals of a three-year strategy for the sector due to be unveiled on Monday.
Increased sharing of data between relevant agencies and increased use of technology in the courts are among the goals cited in the criminal justice sector strategy, which is due to run until 2024.
Recording the ethnicity of those involved in the criminal justice system is one of the developments to be considered.
Along with other agencies, the Justice Department should “explore and develop options for ensuring the recording and monitoring of ethnicity throughout the criminal justice system,” according to the strategy document.
A review of ways to deal with petty crimes outside of prosecution and the court system should be conducted, and increased awareness of the availability of the restorative justice system should be encouraged.
The Criminal Justice Operational Hub will facilitate automated sharing of data between criminal justice agencies, while also enabling data to be made available to researchers on an anonymous basis.
Data from An Garda Síochána charge sheets, court lists and court results from the Courts Service should be shared with other agencies.
Consultations with the public and stakeholders by the Criminal Justice Strategy Committee, which was established in 2015, revealed that the system can be seen as “intimidating, inaccessible and often difficult to understand” by those who use it. .
The system “does not communicate in a unified voice with victims, witnesses, suspects/persons accused or convicted of a crime, and does not always appear consistent or effective,” he found.
The committee, which drafted the three-year plan, includes representatives from the Ministry of Justice, An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Courts Service, Forensic Science Ireland, the Irish Prison Service, the Council of legal aid and the probation service.
The pandemic has been “a catalyst for positive change in the criminal justice system,” according to the committee.
New ways of working have been introduced, reliance on paper-based systems has been reduced and the use of video links to courts has increased, he said.
As part of the three-year strategy, the causes of delays in the criminal justice system should be explored, including the extent and reason for adjournments of court proceedings.
The strategy document commits to ensuring that “all victims, witnesses and defendants have the support they need to interact effectively with the criminal justice system”.
“We will ensure that the victim’s perspective is clearly understood and integrated into the way of working in the criminal justice system.
The strategy commits to an “integrated criminal justice system” that protects human rights, builds public trust and works together to improve the efficiency and experience of those who use the system.
It is also committed to implementing training programs on a range of issues, including victims’ rights and a better understanding of the role of trauma and negative childhood experiences in the criminal justice system.