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Brussels, 21 April 2009

Commission adopts report on implementation of framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings

The Commission has adopted the report on the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings. This report was drawn up in accordance with Article 18 of the Framework Decision.

Vice-President Jacques Barrot expressed a mixed response to this report, which shows that, despite some improvements, there are still shortcomings in the implementation of this Framework Decision. In most cases, the legislation submitted by the Member States under the guise of transposing provisions was already in place before the Framework Decision was adopted. As Mr Barrot said, "This instrument was adopted with a view to harmonising as far as possible the treatment of victims in the Union and, unless the Member States amend their legislation accordingly, this will be a missed opportunity to create a European judicial culture."

The Framework Decision represents a first step towards a European approach to the protection of victims of crimes. It requires the Member States to improve the benefits and services offered to victims, such as the right to be treated with due respect for their dignity, the right to receive information, communication safeguards, the right to protection during the proceedings (in particular for the most vulnerable victims), the right to be awarded compensation in criminal proceedings and, for victims resident in another Member State, the right to give evidence in their country of residence and to have access to compensation in cross-border situations if the crime was committed in a Member State other than that in which the victim is resident. In addition, the Framework Decision requires the Member States to work with their victim support organisations and to provide training for legal practitioners and police officers who work with victims. Some Member States do not guarantee funds to victim support organisations. There would also appear to be a discrepancy between the provision made in national legislation and what actually happens in practice.

The report on the implementation of the Framework Decision shows that:

  • as a general rule, the Member States have informed the Commission that their national measures already complied with the obligations arising from the European instrument (this is often more or less true but the upshot is that the harmonisation effect is lost);

  • transposition has not yet been completed and some Member States are continuing to adapt their legislation and codes of criminal procedure to bring them into line with the Framework Decision;

  • a number of Member States have stated that they have fulfilled their obligations through non-binding acts such as guidelines on best practices, charters and instructions to public prosecutors. The Commission questions the extent to which a non-binding measure can give rise to a satisfactory result for victims since such instruments are not always complied with in full;

  • victim support organisations are satisfied with the content of the Framework Decision and consider it to be a good start, but they believe that the work must be continued, particularly by granting them the funds needed to carry out their tasks.

The Framework Decision has therefore improved the situation of victims of crime, but more needs to be done. Given that its implementation could be improved, the Commission will organise seminars to assist the Member States in transposing it more effectively and plans to present an amendment to the Decision which will clarify Member States' obligations.

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