The victims' charter was published by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in 1999, following extensive consultations with all relevant agencies including the courts, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation and Welfare Service, the State Prosecution Service and the Victim Support organisation. The charter sets out, from the victim's perspective, a general description of the overall criminal justice system, concise summary of the role and functions of each of the main bodies and agencies involved, and the entitlements of the victim in terms of standards of treatment, rights and complaints procedures in each area. A guiding principle of the victims' charter is a commitment to giving victimsof crime a central place in the criminal justice system.
Under the victims' charter specific provision is made for particularly vulnerable victims such as those of sexual offences, domestic violence, elderly victims, victims with disabilities and children. Some of the relevant provisions as they relate to minor victims of rape are as follows. Gardaí will show special sensitivity in cases of sexual offences and receive appropriate training. In the courts, provision is made for children under 17 years to give evidence by video link where appropriate. In court there are legal restrictions on reporting cases such as rape and sexual assault, and provision for the exclusion of the public from court proceedings and the anonymity of complainants in situations where such measures are deemed necessary, for example rape, aggravated sexual assault or incest. The impact on the victim will be taken into account in sentencing, and the victim may give evidence about the effect of the crime if he or she so wishes; the court victim-witness service operated by the Victim Support organisation provides support before, during and after the court process. All of the supports outlined in the charter are geared to ensuring that the entire judicial process is made less intimidating for children.
The provision of appropriate follow-up care and counselling services to alleged rape victims is a matter for each health board, having regard to needs in individual cases. Questions on this aspect of provision should be directed to the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, in the first instance.