The Victim Services Division, operated by the Ministry of Justice is intended to assist persons against whom certain offences have been committed. The Victim Services Division is committed to the best interests of victims of crime by actively supporting them, identifying their needs and advocating their rights. The Division, through its parish offices island-wide, assists victims of crime to manage the emotional trauma associated with and caused by crime. Victims of crimes (both major and minor) fare better whenever the Victim Services Division intervenes.
Why do we need a Victim Support Programme?
Victim support programmes, internationally, are established primarily to provide a corrective balance to the Criminal Justice System as traditionally, the rights of the state and the rights of the offender have superseded those of the victims in western jurisprudence. Victim support programmes are seen as instruments that will assist in correcting this imbalance.
In a sense, justice is never fulfilled until there is recognition of the needs and rights of victims. Though an objective of the justice system is to assist the various victims of crime, many victims still feel alienated from the justice system and so the cry for justice continues. It is for this reason that the Government through the Ministry of Justice established this special Victim Services Division to ensure that the system of Justice maintains a keen focus on the needs and rights of victims.
What will the Unit offer?
After fifteen years, of providing healing and Justice for victims of all types of crime, the programme has now become a household name in Jamaica. The services offered by the Victim Services Division are free, confidential and of the highest quality. These services include:
- Emotional Support - includes mediation and counseling as well as support during and after the closing of cases.
- Crisis Intervention – available across the island. The service is delivered through a number of mediums and is provided especially in cases where the victim(s) may require urgent attention. Crisis Intervention may be delivered through any of the following:
- Telephone Counseling
- On the scene response
- Home Visits
- Walk-in Service
- Technical Services –
The Division offers training to professional individuals as well as allied personnel working on victims’ issues.
- Advocacy (Referrals)
The Unit advocates on behalf of victims. For example, if a victim comes in and needs psychiatric help, the Unit will speak on behalf of that victim and refer him/her to the specific facility.
- Violence Prevention Initiative – Much of the function of the Victim Services Division is violence prevention. Violence prevention methods includes:
- Sensitization of society to the social and psychological impact of crime.
- Providing information to crime victims about their rights
- Promotion of crime prevention tips
- Operational strengthening of networking among victim support organizations
Through its Networking and Victim Rights Promotional component:
The Victim Services Division continues to strengthen its island-wide linkages, with various community leaders, individuals and institutions, (government and non-governmental) in its effort to strengthen the support base for crime victims. The nation is constantly being sensitized to the needs, plight and rights of victims of crime. The result has often been a reintroduction of hope, healing and a measure of social solidarity.
An important aspect of the Victim Services Division is volunteerism. The Unit offers the opportunity for individuals who are capable to help those who are in need of support. In this pursuit, the Unit seeks qualified individuals to serve as volunteers.
The volunteers will:
- Counsel Victims
- Assist victims by accessing help for medical purposes if necessary
- Explain elements of the criminal justice system to the victim
- Inform victims of agencies that are available to help them in different ways
Characteristics of Volunteers
The volunteers should be:
- Accessible to the victims in the place in which they are serving
- Capable of high levels of confidentiality
Genesis of Victim Support Sub-Committee (LMAJ – Kgn)
By Craig McNally
In the training for Kingston JPs concluded in June 2014, prospective JPs became very excited about the work of the Victim Services Division, and explored how they might assist that body in meeting its mandate.
By the end of the JP training session, the ground-work of gathering data on the Unit, carried out by Justices Burchell Duhaney and Marjorie Hyatt, paved the way for Kingston Justices to begin forging a solid relationship. Additionally, it was clear, to Custos Fuller, that aiding the Victim Services Division was a vital link in the judiciary mandate of Justices of the Peace, and so as he commissioned the newly-appointed Kingston JPs, he challenged them to build on the foundation laid.
And so, having been doubly commissioned, the Victim Support Sub-Committee began to take form, with a volunteer list of twenty-eight (28) JPs, and a Steering Committee, Chaired by Justice Craig McNally.
The first official meeting of the volunteers, was in the form of an orientation session held on July 25, 2014, at the Office of the Custos. Following that orientation session, another meeting was held at the Victim Support Unit on Old Hope Road. At this point, the Sub-Committee wanted to know in what area they could specifically render help. Director of the Unit, Rev. Osbourne Bailey, not only shared the Unit’s name change to the Victim Services Division, but thanked the JPs for their willingness to volunteer, and the immense gap the JPs would fill. Liaison to the JP committee, Ms. Annett Richards, brought the group up to speed on their planned parenting interventions, and the level of involvement she hoped JPs would have.
It is the policy of the Division that volunteers receive training in working with victims of various crimes. Twenty-six (26) JPs attended the first of three (3) training sessions in 2014 and completed their training early 2016.