Victims get right to tell court how crime has affected them
Victims of crime in Northern Ireland are to get a statutory right to tell courts how they have been affected.
They will be able to tell the court in writing about the impact on them before a convicted offender is sentenced.
Previously, victims could make statements to the courts, but there had been no requirement to tell them they could be made, or any clear guidance or process on how they should be made.
The new practice will be known as "victim personal statements".
Justice Minister David Ford said: "Victims' views on the impact of a crime can now be more easily made known to the court.
"When a victim is told of the decision to prosecute someone for a crime, they will automatically get information on how they can tell the court in writing about how the crime has affected them.
"They will also be given support to make their statement by trained staff.
"This is a further step in the department's work to improve the way in which victims and witnesses are treated by the justice system.
"I will shortly be bringing forward legislation providing a victim, bereaved family member or family representative with a statutory entitlement to make a written victim personal statement.
"This will ensure that the views of victims are heard by those making sentencing decisions."