Brussels, 15 July 2010
EU launches public consultation on improving rights of victims of crime and violence
About 30 million serious crimes in the EU are reported annually. The EU supports cooperation to bring criminals to justice, but what happens to the millions of crime victims? Their devastating experience can be made worse by a difficult investigation or trial, an invasion of their privacy, or disrespectful treatment of their case. Wherever they are in the EU – whether at home or abroad – victims have the right to be treated respectfully, to receive support, protection, compensation and have access to justice. The European Commission launched a public consultation today on how victims are protected, what kind of support they receive and whether any improvements are needed. The Commission will use the results when it prepares a comprehensive package of rules and practical measures to be proposed in the first half of 2011. The consultation is open until 30 September 2010.
"Every one of us could be a victim of crime or violence. Sadly, this is the case for many millions of people every year. We can't undo the harm caused, but we can minimise the impact of the crime, help people recover and make sure they are treated properly and receive the justice they deserve," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "Victims should not be victimised twice – especially if they decide to exercise their right to move within the EU. We also need to find a sound legal way to deal with protection orders issued in one Member State so that victims can have them recognised in another country. The Commission will work to deliver justice across borders, building on the good preparatory work done by the Spanish EU Presidency over the last six months in the field of the protection of victims."
Crime can affect anyone. 30 million serious offences were recorded in 2007 and most crimes are never reported. About a quarter of the EU population (125 million people) are directly affected by crime every year. Although EU measures in various areas of justice policies have addressed some of victims’ needs in the last decade, their impact varies widely across the EU. For example, the amounts awarded for compensation and the procedures for filing a compensation claim differ between Member States. Victims are burdened by often complicated and lengthy procedures before they can receive funds or enforce their rights.
To address these issues, the Commission launched a public consultation today that will feed into a comprehensive package of rules and practical measures to be proposed in the first half of 2011. The Commission wants the package to support victims throughout the justice process and beyond. Victims should be protected from both the offender and from further distress during proceedings, ensuring that their rights are respected during trials and giving them the support they need to recover and get redress.
The consultation deals with victims' needs in five areas:
Recognition. Are they treated with dignity and respect? Are they questioned in a sensitive manner and receive prompt replies to their questions?
Protection. Are they protected from retaliation and further victimisation both before and after a crime? How is contact with the offender avoided? Is there a loss of protection when crossing borders?
Support. Is there long-term physical and psychological assistance following a crime? Is there practical assistance after a crime to help with compensation claims or funeral arrangements?
Access to justice. How can they know their rights and participate in the justice process?
Compensation. Do they have to pursue the claim for damages themselves and enforce the decision by asking the offender?
The Commission especially wants to hear from citizens and organisations, associations, bodies, institutions and experts who deal with victims' issues either on a local or international level.
The EU began to address victims' rights in 1999. A 2001 Framework Decision established minimum standards for treating victims during criminal proceedings. The 2004 Directive on compensation to crime victims requires state compensation schemes for victims of violent intentional crime, as well as assistance for cross-border claims, in all EU Member States.
This broad work on victims complements other actions such as the Decision to reserve the number 116 006 for victims helplines, the launching of the E-justice portal, which includes factsheets for victims, negotiations on Directives to combat child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Any future measure will take into account the progress already made by the Spanish EU Presidency on the protection of victims.
The Public Consultation is available at:
Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom:
Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship: