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Compensation to crime victims

The aim of this directive is to set up a system of cooperation to facilitate access to compensation for victims of crimes in cross-border situations. This system operates on the basis of Member States' compensation schemes for victims of violent intentional crime committed in their respective territories.

ACT

Council Directive 2004/80/EC of 29 April 2004 relating to compensation to crime victims.

SUMMARY

Crime victims should be entitled to fair and appropriate compensation for the injuries they have suffered, regardless of where in the European Union (EU) the crime was committed. This directive contributes to this by:

  • requiring Member States to provide in their national legislation for a compensation scheme for victims of violent intentional crime committed in their territories;
  • setting up a system facilitating access to compensation for victims of crimes in cross-border situations (possibility of making an application in the Member State of residence, designation of central contact points in Member States, etc.).

Guaranteeing adequate compensation for victims of crime throughout the EU

It is often difficult to obtain compensation for victims either because the offender does not have the necessary financial resources or because it has not been possible to identify or prosecute the offender (the possibility of obtaining compensation from the offender is dealt with in the framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings). Most Member States are aware of this fact and have already introduced state-funded compensation schemes. However, these schemes differ greatly, and these differences have engendered substantial inequalities in terms of full coverage of all EU citizens and amount of compensation.

Following the entry into force of the directive, it will be possible for the victim of a crime to be compensated in cross-border and national situations irrespective of the victim's country of residence or the Member State in which the crime was committed. The amount of compensation to be paid to individual victims is left to the discretion of the Member State in which the crime was committed, but it must be fair and appropriate.

Facilitating claims for compensation by victims in cross-border situations

This directive sets up a system of cooperation to facilitate access to compensation for victims of crimes in cross-border situations. This system is to operate on the basis of Member States' compensation schemes for victims of violent intentional crime committed in their respective territories. All Member States must therefore set up a compensation mechanism and introduce national legislation providing for a compensation scheme for victims by 1 July 2005.

Providing for the setting up of a compensation scheme and reinforcing cooperation between Member States

All Member States must ensure that their national legislation provides for the existence of a compensation scheme ensuring that victims of violent intentional crime committed in their respective territories receive fair and appropriate compensation.

This directive sets up a system of cooperation between national authorities to facilitate access to compensation for victims in cross-border situations. Victims of crimes committed outside their Member State of habitual residence may ask an authority in the Member State in which they are residing (assisting authority) to provide information on how to apply for compensation. The authority in the Member State of habitual residence transmits the application directly to the authority in the Member State where the crime was committed (deciding authority), which is responsible for assessing the application and paying out the compensation.

The Commission has established standard forms for the transmission of applications and decisions relating to compensation to victims (see "Related acts").

With a view to implementation, the directive makes provision for the drawing up and publishing of a manual for the assisting authorities on the internet. The directive also provides for the setting up of a system of central contact points in each Member State to facilitate cooperation in cross-border situations. Additional information is available on the website of the European Judicial Atlas in Civil Matters.

Member States are required to implement the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this directive by 1 Janaury 2006 at the latest.

Not later than 1 January 2009, the Commission will submit a report on the implementation of this directive to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Background

In 1999, the Commission presented a communication with a view to improving the situation of crime victims in the EU. In addition, at the Tampere European Council, Member States recognised the need to lay down minimum standards on the protection of victims of crime in the Union. On 15 March 2001, the Council adopted a framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings. This framework decision contains provisions on compensation by the offender, but does not otherwise address the matter of compensation of crime victims.

Subsequently, on 28 September 2001, the Commission presented a green paper on the compensation of victims of crime, which targeted two main areas for potential action:

  • the adoption of minimum standards with regard to compensation at European level by requiring Member States to guarantee victims a reasonable level of state compensation;
  • the adoption of measures making access to compensation easy in practice, irrespective of where in the EU the crime was committed.

This directive follows on from the green paper. After the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 2004, the Commission called for the adoption of the directive before 1 May 2004 in its declaration on combating terrorism.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2004/80/EC

26.8.2004

1.1.2006

OJ L 261, 6.8.2004.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 20 April 2009 on the application of Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims [COM(2009) 170 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This report evaluates the application of the directive in Member States during the period of 1 January 2006 – 31 December 2008. Only 15 Member States met the deadline for the transposition of the directive (1 January 2006). Subsequent notifications have been received from 11 Member States. The evaluation is thus not complete.
In any case, 25 Member States have put in place schemes for victims to submit applications, established the responsible authorities and implemented the provisions concerning administrative procedures. Most have also notified of their measures and methods for providing applicants information on compensation schemes.
Due to the recent implementation of the directive in some Member States, language barriers that some have encountered as well as a lack of knowledge of other legal systems and procedures, the number of cross-border applications and actions has remained very low. Furthermore, the processing and transmitting of applications and decisions varies greatly from one Member State to another.
All but one Member State have in place fair and appropriate national compensation schemes. Most compensate victims for personal injury, long-term disability and death, as well as close relatives in cases of homicide, but exclude unintentional injuries from their scope. However, the offences must have been reported to the police. Most Member States impose time limits for applications and upper limits for compensations. Most also provide for reduced compensations when the victim contributed to his/her injury.
Only 13 Member States transmitted to the Commission full details of the assisting and deciding authorities, the languages in which information may be transmitted between these authorities, the measures for providing information to applicants and the application forms. Consequently, the manual containing these details, which is published in the Atlas, will be updated regularly.

Commission Decision 2006/337/EC of 19 April 2006 establishing standard forms for the transmission of applications and decisions pursuant to Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims [Official Journal L 125 of 12.5.2006].
The Commission has established standard forms for the transmission of applications and decisions relating to compensation. These forms are attached as an annex to the decision.

Last updated: 10.11.2009
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