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Standing of victims in criminal proceedings

The framework decision provides for minimum rights for crime victims to be exercised in relation to criminal proceedings. It sets out provisions whereby victims are guaranteed the right to be heard, the opportunity to participate in the procedures (also when the offence was committed in another Member State), protection, compensation and access to mediation and to any relevant information.

ACT

Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings.

SUMMARY

The framework decision provides for the assistance of crime victims before, during and after criminal proceedings. Member States must guarantee that the dignity of victims is respected and that their rights are recognised throughout the proceedings. Especially vulnerable victims must be treated in a manner that is most appropriate to their circumstances.

Crime victims are to have the possibility of being heard during proceedings as well as of supplying evidence. However, authorities should be able to question victims only to the extent that is necessary for the criminal proceedings.

At the outset of their contact with law enforcement agencies, victims must be given access to any information relevant to the protection of their interests. This information must comprise at least the following:

  • types of support and services or organisations available for victims;
  • places and formalities for reporting an offence as well as the ensuing procedures;
  • conditions for obtaining protection;
  • conditions for access to legal or other advice and aid;
  • requirements for receiving compensation;
  • arrangements available for non-residents.

At the request of the victim, a Member State must provide information on the outcome of the complaint, the ongoing proceedings (excluding exceptional cases) and the sentence. The victim should also be notified of the release of the prosecuted or sentenced person if s/he presents a danger to the victim.

Member States should take steps similar to those taken for defendants to ensure that communication difficulties regarding understanding of and involvement in criminal proceedings are minimal for victims that have the status of witnesses or parties to the proceedings. Member States should also reimburse their expenses resulting from the participation in the proceedings.

If a serious risk of reprisal exists or if there is concrete evidence of a serious intent to intrude on the privacy of a victim or his/her family, the Member State concerned must provide for an adequate level of protection. This includes ensuring that;

  • measures may be adopted as part of the court proceedings to protect the privacy and photographic image of the victim and his/her family;
  • the victim is protected against contact with the offender on the premises of the court, provided that contact is not necessary for the proceedings;
  • a court decision may permit the victim needing protection to testify outside of open court.

Member States must ensure that decisions on the compensation of crime victims in criminal proceedings are taken within reasonable deadlines, and that measures are provided for encouraging offenders to compensate. Any recoverable property seized must be returned to the victims without undue delay, provided that they are not needed for the proceedings.

Member States should encourage the use of mediation between victims and offenders in cases where mediation is appropriate, and ensure that agreements concluded as a result are taken into consideration in criminal proceedings.

Difficulties arising from cases where a person is the victim of an offence in a Member State other than that where s/he is a resident must be minimised. To that end, Member States must ensure that the competent authorities may take the necessary measures, such as decide on the place for the victim to make a statement as well as make use of video conferencing and telephone conference calls to hear victims residing abroad (as provided by the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union). The victim should also be allowed to make a complaint in his/her Member State of residence instead of where the offence was committed.

In order to improve the protection of the interests of victims in criminal proceedings, cooperation between Member States should be developed further. In addition, Member States should foster the involvement of victim support systems and their provision of support and assistance for victims both during and after the proceedings. They should also foster the training of personnel who are involved in criminal proceedings or who are otherwise in contact with victims, namely of police officers and legal practitioners. Furthermore, Member States should take steps to prevent the secondary victimisation and pressuring of victims in criminal proceedings, with particular attention given to the facilities in venues where the proceedings may be initiated.

Background

On 14 July 1999, the Commission adopted a communication on the rights of crime victims. Subsequently, the conclusions of the European Council meeting in Tampere on 15 and 16 October 1999 requested that minimum standards be established to protect crime victims, especially concerning access to justice and compensation of damages.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA

22.3.2001

22.3.2002 (22.3.2004 for Articles 5 and 6; 22.3.2006 for Article 10)

OJ L 82 of 22.3.2001

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 20 April 2009 pursuant to Article 18 of the Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings [COM(2009) 166 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This report presents the implementation of the framework decision by 24 (out of 27) Member States as of 15 February 2008. The Commission notes that this implementation is unsatisfactory. None transposed the framework decision in a single piece of national legislation; instead, they referred back to existing or newly adopted national provisions. Furthermore, Member States implemented certain provisions through non-binding guidelines, charters and recommendations without any legal basis. Only a few Member States adopted new legislation to cover one or more of the articles.
Consequently, the Commission encourages Member States to provide further information concerning implementation, as well as to enact and submit the relevant national legislations under preparation.

Report from the Commission of 3 March 2004 on the basis of Article 18 of the Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings [COM(2004) 54 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 27.10.2009
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