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Putting victims first - 20/05/2011

A woman seated on the ground, with her head in her hands © iStock/Aldo Murillo

The Commission has proposed a package of minimum rights for crime victims that would apply throughout the EU.

The Polish tourist attacked and seriously injured on a trip to Paris... The Italian teenager beaten up coming out of a Helsinki underground station... Every year 30 million crimes are reported in the EU — add to that the crimes that go unreported, and the number of victims could be as high as 75 million.

Aside from the physical and psychological shock, victims may also have to contend with less-than-optimal treatment by the police or others handling their case. Things get even worse when the victim is in a foreign country, with a language and justice system he or she doesn't understand.

Laws governing victims' rights still vary considerably across the EU. Which is why the Commission is proposing a package of measures that would guarantee victims the same minimum level of protection, support and access to the legal system in every EU country.

The measures would:

  • ensure that police and others working in criminal justice systems are trained to treat victims and their loved ones with respect and fully inform them of their rights.
  • provide extra protection for the most vulnerable victims, such as children, people with disabilities and rape victims, who could, for example, be allowed to testify by videolink rather than in the presence of their attacker.
  • make psychological and practical help available to victims, such as helping a family whose home has been burgled to find a locksmith.
  • require that victims be informed in a language they understand. If needed, legal and financial assistance could be provided to cover the costs of travelling to court.
  • The Commission has also proposed mutual recognition of protection measures . For example, victims of domestic violence would be secure in the knowledge that a restraining order against their agressor would continue to protect them, even in another EU country.

    Finally, EU rules on compensation (particulary for car accidents) should be made tougher over the next several years.

    More on EU efforts to protect crime victims

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