CJS Seminar: Special measures for vulnerable witnesses and the right to a fair trial - Tom O'Malley
From Iain Mcgee
Tom O'Malley (NUI Galway School of Law)
Special measures for vulnerable witnesses and the right to a fair trial
About the seminar
Many countries have by now adopted special measures to assist vulnerable witnesses during the investigation and trial of criminal offences. Particular attention has been paid to the needs of complainants and victims in sexual offence cases. Ireland is no exception in this regard, having provided for such measures in the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 which has been extensively amended in the meantime, especially following the transposition into national law of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive. Moreover, in 2018, the Minister for Justice and Equality appointed an interdepartmental Working Group, chaired by me, to review existing arrangements for vulnerable witnesses and make any appropriate recommendations for further improvements. Our Report was submitted in July 2020. In this seminar, I propose to outline our main recommendations but, rather than becoming preoccupied with the minutiae of Irish criminal procedure, I hope to concentrate on a broader issue, namely, the extent to which it is possible to reconcile an accused person’s right to a fair trial with the provision of special measures for vulnerable witnesses. (Of course, the accused him/herself may be a vulnerable witness). Ireland has a written Constitution which confers extensive rights on persons suspected or accused of criminal offences, This, in turn, means that there are certain limits beyond which the law may not go in terms of tilting the balance more in favour of complainants and victims. However, as we shall see, the Constitution, properly interpreted, still leaves a good deal of room to accommodate the needs of vulnerable persons within the criminal justice system without impermissibly encroaching on the rights of the accused.
Crime, Justice and Society Seminar Series
The Crime, Justice and Society seminars are co-hosted by the Criminal Law and Criminology subject areas of Edinburgh Law School and are open to all. We particularly welcome students from our LLM and MSc programmes to join us.