THE director of a Cork organisation supporting crime survivors has welcomed efforts aimed at fostering a more victim-centred approach around parole decisions.
Sally Hanlon, from Support After Crime Services in Cork City, was speaking about an invitation from the new Parole Board’s chief executive Ciairín de Buis to victims of serious crime.
Ms de Buis, a graduate of University College Cork, is placing a special emphasis on crime victims having a voice in the parole process for life-sentence prisoners. She recently appealed for victims of serious crime to come forward if they wish to make submissions and influence the board’s decisions.
“We’re asking victims to engage with us, if they would like to,” said Ms de Buis. “For the first time, victims have a right to make a submission [to the Parole Board]. Previously, they didn’t.
“Victims occasionally did make submissions but, by and large, most parole recommendations from the previous interim board would not have had the benefit of a victim’s submission.”
Ms Hanlon said that up to now many victims had felt very alone. She hopes that in time further measures can be taken to strengthen the voices of crime survivors.
“It can be helpful for some to see genuine remorse being shown by the offender who has done their time,” said Ms Hanlon. “To hear that and how the victim has changed their life can be positive and some consolation for the victim.”
She described how the process can be empowering for survivors of crime.
“I know people who recently had interactions with the Parole Board and they were very happy. It is a positive step to let the victim have their voice be heard again.
“I think people in the past would have liked to have this opportunity had it been offered to them. While it was always an option to them, victims of crime had to be persistent and willing to seek out the information.”
She hopes that crime victims will feel more supported by authorities in the years ahead.
“Being acknowledged and heard and having their wishes taken into consideration would mean a lot going forward.”