New rights for victims of crime in Europe - Financial compensation from the state

When a crime of violence has occurred, it is essential that victims receive adequate and appropriate financial compensation for their injuries, loss of earnings and emotional distress as soon as possible after the crime has occurred.

Financial hardship is a major problem for many tourist victims of crime. However, the Framework Decision looks only at finances relating to criminal proceedings, i.e. compensation ordered by the court and expenses incurred in the course of proceedings. It does not consider compensation by the state. This is a major omission.

Victim Support has long campaigned for fair and equal compensation for all victims of crime throughout Europe, regardless of the nationality of the victim concerned. We believe that:

This issue has now been picked up in a separate EU initiative. In September 2001 the European Commission issued a Green Paper: Compensation to crime victims. (10) This paper consults on possible measures to improve state compensation to crime victims in the European Union. In particular, it looks at improving access to state compensation for cross-border victims.

At present, there is considerable variation in the amount of financial compensation available to victims, depending both on the crime that they have experienced and the country in which the crime occurs. This has the result that "Two persons becoming the victim of crime, under identical circumstances but in different Member States, may receive widely differing amounts in compensation for similar injuries". Similarly, "A citizen from a Member State with a compensation scheme travelling to a state without or with a very limited scheme will see his or her possibilities to get compensation (in case of becoming a crime victim) decrease or virtually disappear for the extension of the stay. On the contrary a person going in the opposite direction, between the same Member States, will enjoy a drastic, albeit temporary, improvement in his or her rights as a crime victim." As the Green Paper states "these effects, which must appear arbitrary from the individual's perspective, are clearly not satisfactory in view of the objective of establishing the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice for all."

Entitlement to compensation from the state varies greatly across the UK and Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland there is provision for medical costs and out of pocket expenses only. There is no provision for pain and suffering. Claims for domestic violence are not recognised unless the applicant was married to the offender at the time. Victim Support Ireland has continued to press for this to be addressed as a priority to bring the system in line with the neighbouring jurisdiction of Northern Ireland.

Creating greater harmonisation between state compensation schemes poses a major challenge. Not only will the creation of a common minimum standard raise a number of difficult legal issues, for some Member States improving provision will necessitate a significant increase in budgetary and administrative resources. However, the tone of the Green Paper is optimistic: "these difficulties should not be allowed to obscure the importance and the desirability of reaching the objectives of a common minimum standard." We very much support this assertion and look forward to seeing the new proposals.

A man who was attacked and robbed while on holiday in Spain described his experience as traumatic. He faced language difficulties when dealing with the criminal justice authorities, was not entitled to state compensation for his injuries and was not offered support while he tried to access monies from the UK. Since his return to Scotland he has received on-going emotional support from Victim Support.
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