A TOTAL of 1,800 people reached out for assistance with victim impact statements this year after experiencing devastating crimes.
Sally Hanlon from Support After Crime Services, a voluntary organisation on Anglesea Street, revealed how crime victims are now refusing to be silenced by their attackers.
Ms Hanlon said that many are speaking out, both for healing purposes and in the hope of helping others.
She added that the number of people reaching out has increased significantly since last year.
“There is great healing in a victim impact statement. Many feel they are taking back the control and power the offender stole from them. Those who read them really do feel empowered,” Ms Hanlon said.
“We had a young person tell us that the only time they had seen a court was in the movies. For many older people it’s the same. It can be a very intimidating experience.
“The idea is to help the victim draw out their feelings and commit them to paper. Nonetheless, they have to be within guidelines and can only refer to what the person is charged with or has pleaded guilty to. Some tell us they are not even sure where to start and we are always happy to help.”
Ms Hanlon highlighted the challenges she often faces in her role assisting crime victims.
“We’ve experienced situations where the person has called us saying they are in court that day and need a Victim Impact Statement. Sometimes requests comes in at the 11th hour. Other times, at the 11th and three-quarters hour.
“We want to be there for every victim of crime and I’m proud to say that we have been able to help every person who has come to us so far. It’s important for any victim of crime to have their voice heard in a court.”
Ms Hanlon has assisted on a number of high profile victim impact statements, many of which featured across the media.
She said the emotional effects of crime remain long after a trial. “Most will come out of that courtroom not knowing what long term impacts this will have on them for the rest of their lives.”
The crime prevention advocate emphasised the importance of victim impact statements for judges as well as criminals.
“In the absence of a victim impact statement, the judge can assume there has been no impact. I can remember the victim of one horrible assault. The judge said that because the victim had no victim impact statement they had to assume that this crime had no impact on her life. That moment always stuck out for me.
“The benefit of getting it in writing is that the defence council gets a copy, the state gets a copy and it’s sanctioned by the DPP. Victim impact statements are being more utilised now and we have to attribute this to the courts.”