KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Ministry of Justice plans to embark on a sensitisation exercise to heighten public awareness about its Victim Services Division (VSD).
The VSD, which was established in 1998, is mandated to coordinate emotional and technical support for victims of crime.
In a release, Portfolio Minister, Delroy Chuck, noted that the VSD is one of the flagship agencies through which the Ministry dispenses justice and other related services. These include counselling and emotional support, crisis intervention, court preparation, and technical support, such as crime and violence-prevention services.
He was speaking at a digital all-island Justices of the Peace sensitisation forum on Thursday, June 30, under the theme ‘Crime and Violence: Victim Services in Communities and You’,
Chuck emphasised the VSD’s importance, noting that “far too many victims [are] not only bitter but what reverberates in their minds is how they can get even with the offender”.
“Unfortunately, [the VSD] is not well known. [For example] how many Justices of the Peace (JPs) know that in every parish we have a victim service centre with a counsellor and other personnel available to counsel and mentor victims of abuses, of crime, and of violence?” the Minister questioned.
Consequently, Chuck pointed out that the Ministry will be looking to promote the Division and encouraged JPs to assist in referring victims to the VSD for support interventions.
“We urge you [that] where you know of families hurting… because a loved one has been abused or has suffered from criminal violence, that you refer them. The victims are not only the ones who die or get injured; families of the victims are, themselves, victims and need counselling and support,” he said.
The Minister argued that JPs, like all well-thinking citizens, “have a duty to really fight for a better Jamaica”, adding that “where you know of victims, we need you to really urge them not to retaliate”.
“Victims of crime feel a sense of loss of self-worth, and they oftentimes feel that the best way to respond is to retaliate. Far too many of the crimes occurring in Jamaica result from retaliation [and] the Victim Services [Division] is determined to assist these victims to avoid retaliation,” he emphasised.
The Minister expressed the hope that consequent on the VSD’s interventions, “we could even refer them [victims] to restorative justice to, hopefully, restore their relationships [with offenders]”.
Meanwhile, Chuck invited JPs to consider offering themselves to serve as counsellors.
“Sometimes, victims simply want someone to talk to, and most of you Justices of the Peace, with your vast experience, patience, tolerance, and sense of comfort and peace, can give counselling [support] to many victims,” he said.