The rights of crime victims
If a European Union (EU) citizen is a victim of crime in an EU country where s/he does not reside, his/her access to justice must be secured. With this communication, the Commission is launching a process of reflection on the measures to be taken to protect victims’ rights.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee of 14 July 1999 – Crime victims in the European Union – Reflexions on standards and action [COM(1999) 349 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The 1998 action plan on how best to achieve an area of freedom, security and justice provides for a comparative analysis of victim compensation schemes and an assessment of the feasibility of taking EU action within five years. However, the Commission considers that victims' rights also cover other aspects. The number of people (EU and non-EU country nationals living in the Union) travelling, living or studying in another EU country, and who are therefore potential victims of crimes committed in a country other than their own, is steadily increasing. This communication was prepared as a contribution to the discussions at the Tampere European Council of 15 and 16 October 1999 on establishing an area of freedom, security and justice.
Prevention of victimisation
One of the main ways of preventing victimisation is to make information circulate, especially at points throughout the transport infrastructure network (airports, stations, underground stations, etc.). Some EU countries have set up special services for foreign crime victims. In general, the Commission is advocating the exchange of best practices between EU countries and the development of appropriate training for staff.
Assistance to victims
Most EU countries have services offering some kind of first aid to crime victims. However, travellers may need a broader range of assistance than locals (e.g. language, social and psychological support). Assistance is provided by the police, social services or NGOs. Europe-wide cooperation has increased through associations, and the European Forum for Victims' Services has formulated guidelines on victims' rights. The police play an important role as they are often the first contact for victims. However, language and lack of information may present problems for victims, especially if they wish to lodge a complaint or obtain additional assistance. The Commission suggests introducing minimum standards for the reception of victims so that they can obtain the information and, if necessary, the assistance they need. This could be done by setting up a network of EU assistance services to deal with language, information and training problems, which are often related.
Standing of victims in the criminal procedure
It is difficult for foreign victims to follow proceedings concerning them at a distance. There are a number of solutions that should be adopted generally, such as fast-track procedures and the acceptance of statements submitted in advance or from abroad. In general, victims should be able to receive appropriate assistance so that they can follow the progress of the case, be treated with consideration and have the right to protection of their private life. Swifter procedures for the restitution of stolen property should be introduced. In certain cases, the development of mediation systems could speed up the process and improve the handling of complaints.
This aspect will be looked at in the context of the implementation of the action plan on freedom, security and justice. To reduce disparities between EU countries, the Commission is proposing that they ratify the 1983 European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes (Council of Europe) and examine ways of speeding up compensation. Other measures could also be adopted to help victims obtain compensation and to develop cooperation between EU countries with a view to facilitating claims procedures.
The communication asserts that victims are faced with inter-related problems at every stage: information, training of staff with whom they come into contact and language. The Commission would like to conduct a survey among travellers who have been victims of crime to highlight potential problems, develop training for the staff concerned and exchange good practices. Lastly, it is planning to provide multilingual information for crime victims on its website.