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The criminal justice system has drawn the victim of crime from the background to become a major actor in the criminal justice process. Over the last two decades, a considerable number of Irish policies have been drafted to meet the needs of the victim of crime. Whilst Ireland has followed the same path as a number of other jurisdictions such as the UK, it is interesting to consider why particular policies have been enacted. Is the victim of crime being used as a pawn in political game play? Or, are politicians genuinely addressing the needs of Irish victims of crime? This qualitative, non - reactive research examines three policies to uncover the influences on the development of victim policies in Ireland. These are the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, the Criminal Justice Act 1993 and the Justice for Victims Initiative 2008. Whilst any number of policies could have been examined, the enactment of each of these policies was extremely noteworthy. The Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 amended the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 following a campaign spear-headed by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The Criminal Justice Act 1993, which may be seen as watershed legislation for victims of crime in Ireland, was enacted following a period of mass public outcry, invoked by the case of Lavinia Kerwick. Fianna Fáil’s Justice for Victims Initiative 2008 was introduced at a time when rival Fine Gael’s Victims’ Rights Bill 2008 was about to be voted on in the Oireachtas. This research used document and content analysis to determine three themes of influence common to each of the policies examined. First, the power of the media was evident in each of the policies. Media coverage of particular cases and campaigns by advocacy groups pushed the victim of crime to the forefront of public attention. Second, advocacy and support groups were pivotal, either by directly driving a campaign forward, or by expressing their views regarding prospective policy changes. Finally, it was found that Government actions can influence the development of victim policies by, for example, the refusal to pass substantial legislation drafted by opposition parties.
Rice, Jennifer: Support for Victims of Crime: Reality or Rhetoric? Dublin, DIT, September 2012.