John O’ Mahony
5 min read
As a former Police Officer with 40 years’ experience of working with victims of crime and, since my retirement from An Garda Siochana in 2017, have been working on a voluntary basis as an Advocate for crime victims, I want to highlight what I believe is an additional challenge for Victim Support organisations everywhere.
Any just society will choose to prevent problems rather than to treat them. This costs much less money but more importantly avoids the harm to be caused. Yet our government budgets too often fail to fund upstream so we are left to deal with the consequences, in our field of work….. the impact of crime.
As victim support agencies should our focus then rest on the victims’ journey from crime to court or are we called to serve a greater agenda?
Something unexpected happened in Finland in October 2020. A Psychotherapy Centre called Vastaamo and its clients became victims of a major data breach in which sensitive patient information was stolen and later disseminated online. The actual hacking of the database had happened much earlier in 2018-2019 but became public in October 2020.
Most people will never get to meet us and I hope you never will; when we get called to an incident serious tragedy has struck. Often multiple people have died and we join the blue light services to set up the incident management and psychosocial emergency support for both civilians and the first responders involved.
Depending on what happened a big part of our work is to prevent many “well meant but not well done”-initiatives; when we witness tragedy this causes feelings of helplessness in us and we often smother the people affected by wanting to completely take over and control their situation. But we are not helping them if we do, we are actually mitigating our own helplessness into an action perspective.
From time to time, in Portugal, we are surprised by court decisions that stray from progress that has been made in recent years, in terms of the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of victims of crime.
Not long ago, the Lisbon Court of Appeal published a decision relating to a case of domestic violence: an 87-year-old man had been convicted, in the first instance, of abusing his 82-year-old wife and was given a prison sentence of 4 years and 4 months. Additionally, he was barred from contacting the victim for 5 years and was further obliged to attend a program on the prevention of domestic violence.
Yesterday, 13th October 2022, I was re-traumatised by a Healthcare professional. In Northern Ireland the UK govt set up a compensation fund for victims of the ‘Troubles’. It is called the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme and administered by the Victims Payments Board. It is to provide successful applicants with between £2000-£10,000 annually to help improve their quality of life. I applied 12 months ago and since then I have provided all medical, therapist and personal documentary evidence of my PTSD and what happened to me as a survivor of the Loughinisland Massacre that took place on 18th June 1994.