Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Brussels, 12 July 2023
All the victims of crime across the European Union deserve support. Today’s initiative of the European Commission aims to strengthen their rights across the European Union so that they receive support, access information, seek justice and obtain compensation. The proposed update of the existing Directive establishes minimum rules that go beyond those adopted in 2012, effectively addressing the evolving needs of our society, developments in technology and in justice.

The reform includes the following elements:

  • Ensuring victims are well informed of their rights and provided with the necessary resources to report a crime, notably by establishing a universal Victims’ helpline with an EU-wide telephone number: 116 006, and setting up a comprehensive website, which should allow also for chats and emails.
  • Enhancing safety measures tailored to the specific needs of vulnerable victims (such as children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, victims of hate crime or victims in detention): we propose improving the individual assessment of victims’ protection needs – by providing that it should be initiated from the first contact with the authorities – and extending the list of protection measures available – for instance protection orders or ensuring the presence of law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing access to specialised support services for vulnerable victims, such as free psychological support for as long as necessary depending on the victims individual needs.
  • Facilitating access to justice by ensuring victims are sufficiently assisted in court and are empowered to challenge the criminal proceedings’ decisions affecting their rights, independently of their status during these proceedings.
  • Ensuring effective access to compensation by guaranteeing victims compensation immediately after the judgement. Victims should have the right to obtain a decision on compensation from the offender as part of the criminal proceedings (without the need to have recourse to another proceeding) and the State should pay the compensation to the victim directly, seeking reimbursement from the offender afterwards.

These revisions and measures proposed build upon the evaluation of the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive and the EU Strategy on Victims’ Rights 2020-2025, reflecting the European Union’s commitment to continuously improving the protection and support offered to victims of crime across Member States.

Next steps

The Commission’s proposal has to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, the Member States would have two years to implement the Directive into their national law. An exception is made for the use of electronic means of communication, where the Member States would have four years to set up the necessary structures.

Background

The EU Victims’ Rights Directive entered into application in 2015. Since that time, the Directive brought a positive impact on victims’ rights to access information and improved victims’ access to support services.

In June 2020, the Commission adopted the EU Strategy on victims’ rights (2020–2025) to further step up its efforts to ensure access to justice for all victims of crime no matter where in the EU or in what circumstances the crime took place. The Strategy sets out a series of non-legislative actions in relation to victims’ rights, including a review of the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive and provided that the Commission should evaluate the impact of the Victims’ Rights Directive and come with a legislative proposal to update it if necessary. The evaluation of the Victims’ Rights Directive, adopted in June 2022, has confirmed that it has broadly generated the expected benefits. However, it has also demonstrated shortcomings that require targeted improvement in relation to victims’ main rights under the Directive. The problems are linked to the lack of clarity and precision with which certain rights are formulated and to the large margin of manoeuvre for the Member States to implement them.

The transposition of the Victims’ Rights Directive has been largely completed in the Member States. In 2016, the Commission had opened infringements against 26 EU Member States for incomplete transposition of the Directive. Since then, the Commission has closed all but one infringement case.

In order to respond to the shortcomings in the Victims’ Rights Directive as demonstrated in its evaluation and in numerous consultations, the Commission is proposing targeted amendments that strengthen victims’ ability to rely on their rights.

For More Information

Proposal for a Directive amending the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

Q&A Victims’ Rights Directive

EU Strategy on Victims’ Rights (2020-2025)

2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

2022 Evaluation of the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

Quotes
Source – EU Commission


Q&A: Amending the Victims’ Rights Directive

 

Brussels, 12 July 2023

Why is the Commission updating the rules?

Victims of crime deserve the best possible support and protection. The European Union has rules in place to ensure this since 2012.

The evaluation of the Victims’ Rights Directive completed by the Commission last year demonstrated that the current Directive, adopted in 2012, requires targeted revision, so that victims fully benefit from their rights.

It is also important to note that minimum standards have evolved in the past 10 years. This is linked to the developments in justice (child-friendly and victim-centred justice), society (e.g., increased need for coordinated approach to ensure constant availability of the victims’ support services during crises (such as health crises) and developments of technology (digitalisation, and availability of new technologies to victims’ support, protection, and access to justice).

In this context, it is necessary to have in place more far-reaching minimum standards to ensure the effectiveness of the Victims’ Rights Directive.

How will the reform concretely improve the situation for victims?

The proposed amendments will ensure victims can fully benefit from their rights. It will bring more precision to victims’ rights under the Victims’ Rights Directive. For example, in order to ensure an effective provision of information to all the victims, this proposed revision provides for an obligation for Member States to set up Victims’ helplines with an EU wide telephone number: 116 006, where victims can benefit from information about their rights, emotional support, and be redirected to specialised support services or helplines if needed. Victims would be able to benefit from strengthened individual assessment (with the individual assessment of specific needs being initiated from the first contact with the authorities) and the availability of protection orders, following the individual assessment. The most vulnerable victims would have better access to targeted and integrated specialist support services, and a possibility to rely on free of charge psychological support for as long as necessary if needed based on their specific needs. Victims would be able to participate in criminal proceedings more actively, as they would receive support at the courts and would have a right to challenge decisions that affect their rights as victims of crime, independently of their formal status under national law in the criminal proceedings.  The revision also aims to reinforce the right to compensation. Victims should have the rights to obtain a decision on compensation as part of the criminal proceedings – without needing to have recourse to separate proceedings. Once the judge decides on compensation from the offender, the State should pay this compensation to the victim quickly after the judgment and recuperate the amount of the compensation from the offender in a second stage.

How does this directive relate to the proposal for a directive combatting domestic violence?

The Victims’ Rights Directive is a horizontal instrument that applies to all victims of all crimes. The proposal for combatting violence against women and domestic violence is sectoral legislation that provides for specific rights responding more directly to the specific needs of victims of violence against women and domestic violence. The proposal for combatting violence against women and domestic violence applies in addition to the Victims’ Rights Directive.

This revision strengthens the general rights of all victims, without affecting the rights of victims of violence against women and domestic violence. For instance, in relation to victims’ right to access information, under the revision of the Victims’ Rights Directive, all victims will benefit from the general victims’ helpline using the 116 006 telephone number, whereas under the proposal on combatting violence against women and domestic violence, victims of such crimes would also benefit from the specialist helplines using 116 016 telephone number that will respond more directly to their specific needs. The two helplines would coexist. In relation to victims’ participation in criminal proceedings, under the revision of the Victims’ Rights Directive, all victims of all crimes, including victims of violence against women and domestic violence, would benefit from improved participation in criminal proceedings.

How will victims obtain compensation from the offender?

Under the revision of the Victims’ Rights Directive, victims would receive a decision on compensation from the offender during the criminal proceedings, without having to engage in additional, often long and costly, civil proceedings. Moreover, once victims receive a decision on compensation from the offender in the criminal proceedings, the amount of this compensation should be paid to the victim by the state in due time after the decision. The state would then be able to recover this amount of compensation from the offender.

What help will be given to people who fall victim to a crime abroad?

People who fall victim to crime in other EU Member States will be able to continue to rely on their rights to lodge a complaint in their country of residence, which will then forward the complaint to the EU country in which the crime took place. This proposal further strengthens the option for victims to participate in criminal proceeding via teleconferencing. Under the current 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive such a possibility was only mentioned in relation to gathering evidence from victims in cross-border cases and not when it comes to participation in criminal proceedings.

What additional support will be offered to vulnerable victims?

Victims with specific needs, such as children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, victims of hate crime or victims in detention would benefit from the following rights:

  • following the individual assessment of their specific needs (which is an already existing concept under the current Directive), victims in need of psychological help should be able to access free psychological support for as long as necessary – without limiting such support to only a few sessions, as it is often the case currently.
  • Child victims should be able to rely on targeted, multi-agency support and protection services, that should be provided in the same premises.
  • Victims with disabilities would have their rights strengthened by ensuring that they can rely on accessibility standards and new technology when exercising their rights under the Victims’ Rights Directive.
What are the next steps?

Before this proposal for a Directive comes into application in the Member States, it must be first adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once it is adopted, Member States would have two years to transpose it into their national laws. An exception is made for the use of electronic means of communication, where the Member States would have four years to set up the necessary structures.

For More Information

Directive amending the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

Press release: Victims’ Rights Directive

EU Strategy on Victims’ Rights (2020-2025)

2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

2022 Evaluation of the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive

Source – EU Commission

 

 

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