Support and protection for victims
Every year, an estimated 15% of Europeans or 75 million people in the European Union fall victim to crime. More and more people are travelling, living or studying abroad in another EU country and can become potential victims of crime.
The EU works continuously to ensure that victims receive the support and protection they need, everywhere in the EU.
People falling victim to crime have a range of needs, varying from victim to victim. To meet these needs, all victims must be treated individually. However, the needs of victims can be grouped into 5 broad categories
- respectful treatment and recognition as victims
- protection from intimidation, retaliation and further harm by the accused or suspected and from harm during criminal investigations and court proceedings
- support, including immediate assistance following a crime, longer-term physical and psychological assistance and practical assistance
- access to justice to ensure that victims are aware of their rights and understand them, and are able to participate in proceedings
- compensation and restoration, whether through financial damages paid by the state or by the offender or through mediation or other form of restorative justice
Victims' rights in the EU
The victims' rights directive establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and ensures that persons who have fallen victim of crime are recognised and treated with respect. They must also receive proper protection, support and access to justice.
The directive considerably strengthens the rights of victims and their family members to information, support and protection. It further strengthens the victims' procedural rights in criminal proceedings. The directive also requires that EU countries ensure appropriate training on victims' needs for those officials who are likely to come into contact with victims.
EU countries had to implement the provisions of the Directive into their national laws by 16 November 2015. The European Commission has issued a guidance document to assist EU countries in this process.
For certain groups of victims, the EU adopted specific rules. These rules build on the victims' rights directive but respond more directly to the specific needs of some victims. The EU legislation exists to provide protection and support for
- victims of human trafficking,
- child victims of sexual exploitation and child pornography
- victims of terrorism.
Right to compensation
The EU has put in place legislation that facilitates access to compensation in situations where the crime was committed in an EU country other than the victim's country of residence.
Directive 2004/80/EC on compensation to crime victims allows people who have fallen victim to crime abroad to apply for state compensation. The directive requires that all EU countries have a state compensation scheme which provides fair and appropriate compensation to victims of intentional violent crime.
Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime provides the right to obtain a decision on compensation by the offender. It also encourages EU countries to set up mechanisms for recovering compensation payments from the offender.
On 4 October 2017, President Jean-Claude Juncker, appointed Joëlle Milquet as his Special Adviser for compensation to victims of crime. The Special Adviser’s mandate included the preparation of a report on how to improve access to compensation for victims of crime.
The report on “Strengthening victims’ rights: from compensation to reparation” written by Joëlle Milquet was published on 11 March 2019. This report is the result of numerous meetings that the Special Adviser had with victims, victims support associations, national authorities responsible for compensation and other persons involved in victims’ rights (who assisted the Special Adviser within the informal Steering Committee). The Special Adviser also has been assisted in her work by Commission staff responsible for victims’ rights.
The opinions expressed in this report are personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Commission or its President.
Protection in other EU countries
To effectively protect victims of violence and harassment, national authorities often grant them specific measures which help prevent further aggression or re-assault by the offender.
Directive 2011/99/EU on the European Protection Order (EPO) sets up a mechanism allowing persons who benefit from a protection order in criminal matters issued in one EU country to request a European Protection Order. Regulation (EU) No. 606/2013 on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters sets up a mechanism allowing for a direct recognition of protection orders issued between EU countries.