New rights for victims of crime in Europe - New rights for victims of crime
The Council of Ministers' Framework Decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings is binding on EU Member States. It highlights issues of concern, sets out principles that must be taken into consideration and then lists a series of rights to which victims of crime are entitled in the course of criminal proceedings. Most of the provisions in the Framework Decision came into force on 22 March 2019.
The Framework Decision stipulates that minimum standards must be drawn up for the protection of victims of crime, in particular to secure access to justice and rights to compensation for damages, including legal costs. A series of principles underpinning these entitlements state that:
- Victims of crime are entitled to a high level of protection.
- The laws and regulations of Member States should be approximated [brought closer] to achieve the main rights set out in the Framework Decision.
- The needs of crime victims should be addressed in a comprehensive and co-ordinated manner to avoid secondary victimisation; thus provisions are not confined to criminal proceedings.
- Co-operation between Member States should be strengthened through networks of victims' organisations.
- Suitable and adequate training should be given to people who come into contact with victims of crime.
Provisions - minimum standards of treatment
All victims of crime should:
- be treated with respect
- have their entitlement to a real and appropriate role in criminal proceedings recognised
- have ther right to be heard during proceedings, and to supply evidence, safeguarded
- receive information on: the type of support available; where and how to report an offence; criminal proceedings and their role in them; access to protection and advice; entitlement to compensation; and, if they wish, the outcomes of their complaints including sentencing and release of the offender.
- have communication safeguards: ie Member States should take measures to minimise communication difficulties in criminal proceedings
- have access to free legal advice concerning their role in the proceedings and where appropriate legal aid
- receive payment of expenses incurred as a result of participation in criminal proceedings
- receive reasonable protection, including protection of privacy
- receive compensation in the course of criminal proceedings
- receive penal mediation in the course of criminal proceedings where appropriate
- benefit from various measures to minimise the difficulties faced where victims are resident in another member state, especially when organising criminal proceedings.
In addition: co-operation between Member States is to be encouraged; specialist services and victims' organisations should be promoted; training for personnel who come into contact with victims should be encouraged; and, steps should be taken to prevent secondary victimisation and to avoid placing victims under unnecessary pressure [therefore each Member State must consider its facilities within courts, police stations, public services and victims' organisations].