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Victims' rights - by country


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Can I appeal against the ruling?

A civil claimant (1), subsidiary prosecutor (2) or private prosecutor (3) is generally entitled to appeal against the ruling.

Two types of appeal are available: An appeal for nullity (Nichtigkeitsbeschwerde) is concerned with the legality of the proceedings and the ruling, while an appeal (Berufung) contests the decision made on civil law claims. As a private prosecutor you may also appeal against the level of the penalty. In the event of an acquittal, civil claimants and subsidiary prosecutors will be referred to the civil courts to pursue their compensation claims.

As a civil claimant, subsidiary prosecutor or private prosecutor you have the right to lodge an appeal for nullity against a ruling in the following case:

  • if your civil claim has been forwarded to a civil court on account of the defendant’s acquittal and it is evident that the denial of a motion you put forward during the trial negatively affected the court’s decision on your civil claim.

As a civil claimant or subsidiary prosecutor you are entitled to lodge an appeal if:

  • in the event of a conviction the court forwards your claims to a civil court, even though they could have been ruled on by the criminal court, as your claims were well founded and justified.

In proceedings before a district court (Bezirksgericht) and before a single judge at a regional court (Landesgericht), civil claimants and subsidiary prosecutors can appeal against the ruling on civil claims not only if these claims are forwarded entirely to the civil courts, but also if they wish to contest the level of any award.

If you have the status of a private prosecutor in the proceedings, you can rely on the same rights of appeal as the public prosecutor. If the defendant is acquitted, you may file an appeal for nullity. In proceedings before a district court and before a single judge at a regional court, you may also contest the facts established in the ruling by lodging an appeal on the question of the defendant’s guilt. If the defendant is convicted, you can appeal if you do not agree with the penalty or if your civil claims are forwarded to the civil courts. If you were not present at the hearing when the court announced its decision, you will need to examine the file to find out if the defendant was found guilty or not. The ruling must contain reasons and be signed by the judge within four weeks. If you have participated in the trial as a civil claimant, subsidiary prosecutor or private prosecutor and you lodge an appeal or an appeal for nullity within three days of the pronouncement of the ruling, you must receive a copy of the ruling. You can apply for legal aid to file your appeal or appeal for nullity. If necessary, this can include free translation support. Legal aid will be granted by the court if legal representation is necessary, and if your income is insufficient to pay for the legal representation without endangering your subsistence.

What are my rights after sentencing?

All victims can ask to be informed about the first occasion when the offender is permitted to leave detention without supervision, if the offender escapes and is reapprehended, if the offender is due to be or has been released and of any conditions imposed in the event of a conditional release.

Victims of sexual offences and sexually motivated violence must be heard before electronic tagging is approved if they have asked to be informed about the offender leaving or being released from prison. Such victims must also be notified that electronic tagging has been approved. They are entitled to victim assistance services to support them in asserting these rights.

Otherwise you do not receive any other information from the authorities after the ruling has entered into force. However, you continue to have the right to examine the court file if your interests are affected.

Am I entitled to support or protection after the trial? For how long?

After the trial you are entitled to a concluding discussion with the organisation that has provided you with victim assistance.

Victims of crime who have received psychosocial support during the criminal proceedings are also entitled to such support during subsequent civil proceedings. This is conditional on the subject matter of the civil proceedings being related to that of the criminal proceedings and on such support being necessary to safeguard the victim’s procedural rights. The victim support organisation providing the assistance will assess whether these conditions are met. The victim may seek legal aid so that he/she can be represented by a lawyer in the civil proceedings. This support will be granted until the end of the civil proceedings at the latest.

What information will I be given if the offender is sentenced?

You can find out the outcome of the proceedings and the penalty imposed either by remaining in the courtroom until the oral ruling is pronounced or by examining the court file later.

Will I be told if the offender is released (including early or conditional release) or escapes from prison?

On request, you will be informed immediately if the offender escapes or is released from prison, as well as of the first occasion when the offender is permitted to leave detention without supervision. You will also be notified when an offender who has escaped is apprehended. If conditions intended to protect the victim have been imposed on the offender at the time of release, you will be informed of these too.

Will I be involved in release or parole decisions? For example, can I make a statement or lodge an appeal?

The victim will be involved in release or parole decisions only in exceptional cases. Only victims of a sexual offence or sexually motivated violence who have asked to be informed about the offender’s escape or release will be heard before a decision is made on electronic tagging.

1. Civil claimant

To become a civil claimant, you need to submit a declaration. The declaration must include a specific quantification of the claim being filed for compensation of the loss caused by the crime or the harm suffered. During the investigation the declaration has to be addressed to the police or the public prosecutor. It can be submitted in written form or made orally. During the trial the declaration has to be submitted before all the evidence has been compiled. This is also the latest point by which the claim must be quantified.

As a civil claimant you will have the following rights in addition to those of a victim:

  • the right to request the collection of evidence that may serve to convict the offender or to justify the claim for compensation; the right to be summoned to the trial; the right to appeal against the court’s decision to close the case; the right to lodge an appeal on the basis of your civil claims.

2. Subsidiary prosecutor

To become a subsidiary prosecutor, you have to be or become a civil claimant and declare the subsidiary prosecution. If the offender is a minor, subsidiary prosecution is excluded.

You can become a subsidiary prosecutor by submitting a declaration. If the public prosecutor drops the charge during the trial, you must submit this declaration immediately if you were summoned in due form. If you have not complied with the summons or do not declare the subsidiary prosecution, the offender will be acquitted.

If the public prosecutor drops the charge outside the court hearing or if you have not been summoned in due form as a civil claimant, the court has to inform you of this development. You will then have one month to declare the subsidiary prosecution.

If you continue the prosecution instead of the public prosecutor, the latter can access the information regarding the court proceedings at any time and may decide to take over the prosecution again. In this case you will continue to be involved in the trial as a civil claimant.

3. Private prosecutor

Some less serious crimes are not prosecuted by the public prosecutor, but by the victim himself/herself. If you are a victim of such a crime, criminal proceedings will only start if you bring charges privately before the court. You then acquire the status of a private prosecutor. In this case there will be no investigation stage and, as a private prosecutor, you will have to prove all the facts essential for a conviction and cover the costs in the event that the alleged offender is acquitted.

4. Victim assistance services

If you have been subjected to violence, dangerous threats or your sexual integrity has been violated as a result of an intentional crime, you are entitled to legal assistance to the extent necessary to safeguard your procedural rights as a victim, taking utmost account of your personal concern. Assistance is also available to you if you are a close relative of a person who may have died because of the crime or you are a relative who has witnessed the crime. Psychosocial victim assistance services must always be granted without the need for an application to victims whose sexual integrity may have been violated and who are under 14 years of age.

Psychosocial procedure assistance includes the preparation for the procedure of those concerned and the emotional stress related to the procedure and the assistance to hearings with the police and in court, legal assistance shall include legal advice and representation by a lawyer. Providers of legal assistance are also entitled to claim compensation in criminal proceedings (the rights of the civil party).

Victim assistance services are provided by specific victim support organisations (such as child protection centres, counselling centres or intervention centres). They instruct lawyers to provide legal assistance and/or provide the psychosocial assistance of their staff Their members of staff are social workers, psychologists or comparable professionals with additional – obligatory – legal training in the area of criminal proceedings.

The Federal Ministry of Justice funds the victim assistance services.

Last update: 03/02/2021

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.