Topic 2 Overview of main aspects and terms of the Directive. The evolution of the Victims’ Rights Directive: New Victims’ Right Strategy 2020-2025

The Victim’s Right Directive represents one of the fundamental  instrument of the EU for the protection of the  victims’ rights.

It was adopted in 2012. EU countries had to implement it by 16 November 2015. In 2013, the European Commission issued a  guidance document to assist EU countries in this process.

The aim of the Directive is to grant to  all the victims of a crime to receive support and protection together with appropriate information rendering them able to participate in criminal proceedings. Victims shall be recognised and treated in a respectful and sensitive manner by all actors/operators coming into contact with them.

Victims with specific needs should be treated even more carefully in order to protect them from secondary victimisation and intimidation. Such victims may also access to specialised support services. As well special provision occur when the victim is a child.

In particular, specific rules are given for the following  groups of victims:

The Directive was not immediately transposed or well transposed into the countries legal orders. This caused a scarce effect on the victim’s right protection.

On 11 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a Report on the implementation of the Victim’s Right Directive that  showed the incomplete transposition and/or incorrect implementation of the EU rules into national legal orders.

The EU set up an European Network on VictimsRights to assist the national authorities in the implementation of the Directive The Network provides a forum of national experts who exchange best practices and discuss the correct application of the transposed law.

On 28 June 2022, the European Commission adopted its  an evaluation plan of the Victim’s Right Directive.

The evaluation plan showed the great improvement brought by the Victims’ Rights Directive has greatly enhanced the victims’ conditions in terms of safety. The Directive has also contributed to reduce the risk of negatives effect from the participation in criminal proceedings and from the contacts with the offender.

  • On the other side the evaluation plan also points out situations of weakness where victims can’t fully rely on their rights due to a lack of clarity and precision in the drafting of some of the rights in the Directive. In particular, victims should be able to take more active role in the criminal proceedings and have easier access to compensation.

 

Main aspects and terms of the Victim’s Rights Directive

The Directive’s purpose is to offer support and protection of victims of crime ensuring a minimum standards of rights making sure that they are treated with respect, receive proper protection and access to justice.

It applies to victims of crime and their family member. Specials provisions are provided for victims with special needs or minors.

Main areas of the Directive:  The Directive provides victims with a right to information, a right to understand and to be understood, a right to access in criminal proceedings. It provides support and protection in accordance with the victims’ individual needs.

Right to understand and to be understood

The communication with victims must be simple and accessible. This means that it must be adapted to the victims specific needs (linguistic capacity, age, language, disability, etc.)

Right to be informed about their rights

Victims should be informed by the authorities about their rights (the type of support protection, legal advice or compensation they can obtain, the procedure to make a complaint, etc.). All the information must be given from the first contact by a competent authority.

Right to be informed about their case / to participate to criminal proceedings

In case of criminal proceeding victims must be informed about their case: time and place of the trial, steps in the case, final judgment. They as well have the right to be heard during the proceedings. Victims should – if they wish – also be informed about the release or escape of their offender. They should also be informed if the offender will not be prosecuted and will have the right to have a revision of the decision reviewed if they do not agree with it

Right to interpretation and translation

Victims that don’t understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings, must receive interpretation and translation free of charge if they request it.

Right to support

Victims must have access to free of charge support services such as shelters, trauma support and counselling adapted to different types of victims.

Right to safeguards in the context of restorative justice

If restorative justice proceedings are used in the national system, they are used in the interest of the victim and the victims shall be protected from the risks of further suffering related to contacts with the offender.

Right to protection

Victims must be protected from the offender throughout the criminal proceedings.

Right to privacy

Victims have a right to their privacy during the criminal proceedings. Personal data must be used in accordance with the national rules on data protection. In particular must be avoided the public dissemination of any information that could lead to the identification of a minor.

Right to individual assessment of victims’ protection needs

Victims have a right to the individual assessment of their  individual protection needs. The competent authorities (police, prosecutor) and/or specially trained staff will assess the individual needs of every victim, and identify the victims who are the most vulnerable. Such victims will be protected by specific measures

Children’s rights

Children, as vulnerable victims, should always benefit from the specific protection.

The Directive sets up a general principle according to which the child’s best interest should always prevail in the application of the Directive.

The new Victims’ Rights Strategy is the first-ever Strategy on victims’ rights.

The two purposes are: 1) empowering  victims of crime and 2) working  together for victimsrights.

Concrete  actions must  be taken at EU level by the European Commission, national level by the Member States and at civil society levels by national stakeholders over the next five years.

It has five key priorities: 1) effective communication with victims and a safe environment for victims to report crime; 2) improving support and protection to the most vulnerable victims; 3) facilitating victims’ access to compensation; 4) strengthening cooperation and coordination among all relevant actors; 5) strengthening the international dimension of victims’ rights.

The implementation of this strategy will be regularly monitored, through regular meetings of the Victims’ Rights Platform to update actions under the responsibility of different actors.