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Last update: 17-08-2004
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Compensation to crime victims - General Information

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Compensation to crime victims

How can you obtain compensation for the injuries and losses suffered as a result of a crime committed against you?

To become the victim of a crime is one of the most negative experiences imaginable. A victim can suffer severe physical injuries as well as severe mental stress and psychological problems, for a long period of time, as a result of the crime. The victim may have to bear the costs for medical treatment and long-term hospitalisation, and may lose income due to an incapacity to continue working. The victim may feel that his or her personal integrity has been violated, suffer long-term anxiety for moving around in public, and feel a generally reduced enjoyment of life.

Responsibility of the offender to pay damages

It is only natural that the victim would wish to be compensated for the injuries and losses caused. The responsibility for paying such compensation lies, in all Member States, with the offender. This responsibility, called civil liability, is covered by the civil law of each Member State and obliges the offender to pay damages to the victim to cover the losses caused.

The responsibility of the offender to pay damages to the victim is different from his or her criminal liability against the state. Damages concern the relationship between the offender and the victim, and, in principle, it is the victim who has to demand such damages in civil court proceedings. The criminal liability concerns the relationship between the offender and the state. It is for the competent authorities (police, prosecutor, investigating judge) to seek evidence against the perpetrator as to his or her guilt, and the decision will be taken in criminal court proceedings.

The basic route for the victim to get damages is therefore to sue the offender. More information on how to do that can be found under the theme “Bringing a case to court” . However, recognising the difficult situation the victim is in following the crime, all Member States try to help a victim to seek damages from the offender in various ways. For example, it may be possible for the victim to seek damages in the criminal court proceedings provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. Some Member States also help the victim to enforce a judgment on damages against the offender. Further information can be found by clicking on the Member States flags.

Possibility to get compensation from the state

In many cases it will not be possible for the victim to get damages from the offender. The offender is perhaps never identified, or the results of the police investigation do not allow for sufficient evidence on who committed the crime. Even if the victim has obtained a judgment on damages, the offender may be without income and assets and will not be able to pay the damages in practice.

For that reason some Member States have introduced a possibility for the victim to get compensation from the state instead. In most Member States it is necessary for the victim to first try to get damages from the offender. If this fails, the victim can apply to the state for compensation. In some Member States the possibility to get compensation from the state is restricted by further criteria, in terms of the types of crime that are covered or the types and amount of losses that can be compensated. Some Member States have more generous conditions for compensation to victims of terrorist attacks. More information on these conditions and how to apply for compensation from the state can be found by clicking on the Member States flags.

New EU legislation

Council directive relating to compensation to crime victims, adopted 29 April 2004, will ensure that by 1 July 2005, each Member State has a national scheme in place which guarantees fair and appropriate compensation to victims of crime. Secondly, the directive ensures that compensation is easily accessible in practice regardless of where in the EU a person becomes the victim of a crime by creating a system for cooperation between national authorities, which will be operational by 1 January 2006.

More information on the directive can be found by clicking on the “Community law” icon.


Last update: 17-08-2004

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