The daughter of a murder victim has said the justice system urgently needs to do more to help families in the aftermath of violent crime.
Deirdre Coakley’s father, Derry, was murdered in 2018 and, in the midst of such terrible grief, she felt like her dealings with the justice system could have been a lot simpler:
“My Dad was fantastic, a real rock, everything I wanted in a Dad,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.
“So on 24th October 2018 I found out he was shot and murdered and taken away from me and that’s where my whole life kind of turned upside down and that’s where this began.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder. But justice in Ireland is a process that can often take a long time and the Coakley family were told they would have years to wait before a trial:
“Then it became a wait game, gearing ourselves up for trial,” Deirdre continued.
“We were told trial would be happening in 2020 - which we were very shocked by because that’s two years after Dad’s death and that kind of caused a lot of anxiety because you felt like you were stuck kind of.
“I kind of put my grieving on hold I suppose.”
Sadly for the Coakley family, the man charged with Derry’s murder died in custody of a terminal illness in August 2020; no one will ever be convicted of his killing and the Coakleys will forever lack the closure that will bring:
“So that was a big blow to us. I felt let down by the system. I felt unsupported by the system. I felt like my grieving process was all over the place.”
Ever since then Deirdre has thrown herself into campaigning and helping others get the help she would have benefited from:
“Definitely mental health support within the justice system. I had great support from Support After Crime - they’re a voluntary service in Cork," she explained.
“But within the court system there was nothing there to support my Mum or I during any hearings that were coming up. Everything was a bit unfamiliar to us going into the court for the first time.”
Meeting with the minister
Recently Deirdre met Minister for Justice Helen McEntee - an encounter she described as “positive”:
“I had a good conversation, we were speaking for over an hour, it was very positive, I felt very listened too,” Deirdre continued.
“I raised a number of points, for example crime to trial wait times, the book of evidence not being released, documents like the victim impact statement to be read and if the trial doesn’t go ahead for unforseen circumstances and I suppose a lack of awareness for victims’ families in communication between the DPP and the Gardaí and the courts.”
Does she believe that Minister McEntee will now bring forward changes to the system?
“I really do, everything was taken on board and there was no ‘no’, there was a definite, ‘We’ll look into doing something about that.’
“And I would feel like an asset to them as I have been there. Unless you’ve been through it, you don’t know exactly what it’s like for someone.”
Main image: Pictured today are the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie