Federal watchdog says four-year-old victims rights regime falling short

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OTTAWA — The new federal watchdog for victims of crime says rules to give victims and their families a bigger voice in the justice system have fallen short of their intended mark and need to be rethought.

The previous Conservative government introduced what it called a victims’ bill of rights almost four years ago that allowed victims of crime to get information about offenders and have their views taken into account when decisions are made.

The regime to enforce those rights doesn’t go far enough, says Heidi Illingworth, who late last year became federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

In an interview, Illingworth says she wants to see the regime strengthened to give victims “legally enforceable” rights because “we still are not there yet.”

She used the example of how relatives of Tori Stafford weren’t able to provide their thoughts on transfer decisions for the two people convicted in the eight-year-old’s 2009 murder, only finding out after the killers had been moved.

Illingworth says she plans to launch a special review of the framework to highlight the issue and provide recommendations.

The Canadian Press