All crime victims would have the same basic rights across the EU and would have their specific needs assessed, under a draft EU directive setting minimum protection standards provisionally agreed by Parliament and member states on Wednesday. An estimated 75 million people are victims of crime every year in the EU.
When crimes happen abroad, differing cultures, languages and laws can create serious problems. The agreed text aims to ensure that whatever the crime - mugging, robbery, assault, rape, harassment, hate crime, terrorist attack, or human trafficking - and wherever in the EU it is committed, all victims have the same basic rights in criminal proceedings, are treated with respect and dignity, protected from repeat or further victimisation, and have access to victim support services, justice and compensation. Victims would also be entitled to have their specific needs assessed, with a view to granting them special protection during criminal proceedings.
“This directive is a great achievement for victims throughout the EU. Individually assessing the victim's personal characteristics and the circumstances of the crime will help to ensure that all victims are treated according to their specific needs. No victim will be considered inferior to another. We have greatly improved the rights to be heard, to receive information, to appeal, to protection, to interpretation and to access victim support services. This directive also takes account of victims of serious crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking and organised crime" said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Teresa Jiménez-Becerril (EPP, ES).
Women’s Rights Committee rapporteur Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, BG), commented: "Responding adequately to victims' needs, irrespective of the crime suffered and regardless of where they come from, is a major change which will benefit both citizens and national judicial systems. We focused on the victims of crime, and the experience of having to go through a process which can be particularly difficult personally. With this agreement, the EU is closing identified gaps in protection for victims particularly exposed to secondary and repeat victimisation, such as children, victims of gender-based violence or victims of organised crime".
At MEPs' request, all victims would undergo an individual assessment of their specific needs. Based on personal characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation, the type or nature and the circumstances of the crime, any person could have specific protection needs, says the agreed text, adding that individual assessments should be carried out several times during criminal proceedings to take account of any changes in the victim's situation.
The agreement would oblige Member States to ensure that victims and their family members have access to free of charge, easily accessible and confidential victim support services (for example, emotional and psychological support) from the moment the victims suffer harm, during and after the conclusion of the investigation and trial and regardless of where the crime took place, says the text. Specialist support services should also be set up for victims with specific needs, such as victims of gender-based violence or children, it adds.
Clear information and translation
Victims would have to be informed, from their first contact with a competent authority, of their rights as defined in the directive, either orally or in writing, in simple and accessible language and in a language that they understand.
Victims would also be enabled to report the crime and take part actively in the criminal proceedings (interviews and court hearings), in a language that they understand. Interpretation and translation services would be made available to this end.
Children's specific rights and needs would have to be taken into account in all cases and child victims would be given the opportunity to play an active role in criminal proceedings and to have their testimony taken into account.
The agreed text will be put to a vote in the Civil Liberties and Women's Rights Committees on 10 July. Parliament as a whole will vote on it in September. The Council will also have to give its green light. Once adopted, EU countries would have three years to transpose the new rules into their national laws.