The Government will set up a National Authority for the protection of victims of crime. This is one of the major highlights of an Assistance and Protection of Victims of Crime (NAPVC) Bill that will be introduced in Parliament.
The proposed Authority will be empowered to “provide assistance and redress to victims of crime upon an application.” It will be in the form of compensation from a special fund to be established for the purpose and to be managed by the new Authority.
The NAPVC is to be vested with quasi- judicial functions to receive complaints of alleged and imminent infringement of rights and entitlement of victims of crime and witnesses and conduct investigations and inquiries into such complaints. The new law will require relevant authorities to take “appropriate corrective measures.”
The draft of the proposed Bill which is now being knocked into final shape by the Ministry of Justice also makes provision for the establishment of a separate division in the Police Department for protection of victims of crime and witnesses.
Assistance and protection provided to victims of crime and witnesses by courts, in terms of the new law, will include the adoption of special measures such as the conduct of judicial proceedings in camera, preventing the victims of crime or witnesses being unnecessarily harassed, intimidated or influenced by seeing the accused present at the venue of the trial or inquiry. This is intended to prevent the identity of the victim of crime or witnesses from being disclosed. According to the Ministry of Justice, which has worked out the outlines, “this is to be achieved through a video conferencing facility linked to a remote location.” Such a location will be within the territory of Sri Lanka, it says.
Other highlights of the new law:
•There will be a statutorily recognised scheme to enable victims of crime to obtain compensation through courts from the perpetrators for losses suffered as a result of offences perpetrated against them. The court is to be empowered upon the conviction of an accused to order him or her to pay an amount not exceeding one million rupees as compensation to a victim of crime, in addition to the penal sanctions imposed on the accused.
•The Bill will vest jurisdiction in the High Court and Magistrate Court following the conviction of a person for having committed an offence, to impose orders for the payment, in addition to the fine, of an amount not exceeding 20 per cent of the fine payable. The amount so paid is to be remitted to the Victims of Crime and Witnesses Assistance and Protection Fund.
•The Bill will provide for the “recognition of certain rights and entitlements of victims of crime and witnesses and ensures that their rights are protected and that they receive the required assistance and redress.
•The Bill also provides for “recognition of certain harmful forms of conduct against victims of crime and witnesses that are likely to subvert the course of justice, which have been recognised as offences.”