The Victims' Rights Directive will give victims of crime stronger rights to support and protection across the European Union. EU Member States have until 16 November this year to implement the rules into national law. The new directive replaces the 2001 Framework Decision. It builds upon the minimum rights already established and sets clearer obligations for Member States. The Directive was adopted on 25 October 2012 (IP/12/1200). The European Commission issued a guidance document to guide Member States in implementing the new rules.
Additional rights and obligations under the new rules:
- Victims have the right to understand and be understood. Communication must be accessible and in a language understood by the victim, including non-EU languages where appropriate. For children, communication must be adapted accordingly.
- Member States must guarantee access to a basic level of support services and facilitate police referrals to victim support organisations. Victims must have access regardless of whether they officially report the crime. For vulnerable victims or those with special needs, there must be access to specialist services, such as shelters, trauma support and counselling.
- Victims must be informed if the offender will not be prosecuted and have right to have such a decision reviewed.
- Victims must receive an individual assessment to see whether they are vulnerable to secondary or repeat victimisation or intimidation during criminal proceedings. If so, special measures must be put in place to protect them.
- There must be particular attention for the most vulnerable, notably victims of particularly severe crimes, children, and victims of terrorism, organised crime, human trafficking, gender-based violence, violence in close relationships, sexual violence, or hate crime.
- Family members have more rights – the definition of victim is widely defined and now includes family members of deceased victims as direct victims. Family members of surviving victims have the right to support and protection.
Example of how the Directive will improve the situation for crime victims:
While on holiday in another EU Member State, Stephanie was violently attacked and robbed. At the police station, she receives information on her rights in her own language and an interpreter helps her make her statement in her mother tongue. She receives a translated, written acknowledgment of her complaint and is informed about next steps. She is referred to a specialised victim support organisation. Once back home, the authorities abroad keep her informed about all stages of the criminal proceedings. When she testifies in court, special measures are put in place so she does not have to face the offender again. When the offender is sent to prison, she is asked whether she wants to be informed about his release. As of 16 November 2015, these safeguards will apply throughout the EU.
The European Protection Order
To protect victims of violence and harassment, national authorities often grant specific protection measures to prevent further aggression or re-assault by the offender. New rules introduced in January this year mean that a person granted a protection order in one Member State continues to benefit from this protection when moving or travelling within the EU (see IP/15/3045).
Right to compensation
The Directive relating to compensation to victims of crime means that people in the EU can apply for state compensation when they fall victim to crime abroad, and receive assistance to do so. All Member States must have a state compensation scheme providing fair and appropriate compensation to victims of intentional violent crime. When crimes are committed in another Member State, victims can turn to an authority in the country where they live to apply for compensation and get help with the formalities.
For more information:
Victims' rights: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/criminal/victims/rights/index_en.htm
Protecting the victims of gender based violence: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-violence/protecting-victims-of-gender-violence/index_en.htm