How can I be involved in the trial?
You can participate in the trial as a victim without a specific legal status in the proceedings or you can become a civil party (1). However, you are entitled to information concerning the date of the hearing through a formal service of notification, regardless of your role in the proceedings.
You can join the trial as a civil party at the official opening of the trial hearing.
As a victim, civil party or not, you are not obliged to be present at the trial proceedings.
If you are a civil party you will have the right to participate, make proposals and requests, submit evidence, question witnesses, access data and documents concerning the proceedings, interpretation or translation of documents free of charge etc. Your rights may be exercised in the trial proceedings by your near relatives - your parents, sons, daughters, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces. As a civil party you may be represented by counsel (2).
However, after formal charges are brought against the offender, you may be summoned as a witness in court and you have to testify. You are under the obligation to tell the truth.
In the case of conviction you will have your expenses reimbursed by the offender. Expenses will be reimbursed by the offender also in case of a withdrawal of the complaint, unless otherwise agreed by you and the offender. You can receive reimbursement from the State only if your income is low. You have to pass a stringent means test.
If the offence has caused only minor damage or constituted only an isolated instance of misbehaviour by the offender special criminal proceedings can be instituted before the lay justice of peace. You can initiate the prosecution in this case with a direct request (including a request to schedule trial hearing, for collection of evidence etc.) to the judge. Notice of such a request must be given in advance to the prosecutor, who may either give an adverse opinion or confirm the decision to prosecute.
What are my rights as a witness?
When you are called to give evidence as a witness during the trial you have to attend the court hearing and tell the judge what you know about the case. You can refuse to testify if you are a close relative of the defendant or if what you say may lead to criminal prosecution against you. You can also refuse to answer questions that may reveal a professional secret entrusted to you. The judge is obliged to inform you when you have the right to refuse to give a statement as a witness.
When you testify during the trial you can also benefit from a number of protective measures, such as:
- to give evidence behind a screen or through a video-conference system, especially in proceedings for sexual offences and mafia crimes; and
- to give evidence behind “closed doors”.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a minor, you will be heard in a private court session.
If you are a minor who has been the victim of a sexual offence you will be not asked questions about your private and sexual life, unless such questions are essential in determining the fact of the case.
Can I receive legal aid?
Regardless of your role in the trial - as a civil party or as a victim without specific legal status, you may be represented by counsel (2).
If you are a civil party (1) you may also have access to free legal aid if your income during the preceding year did not exceed 9.723,84 €.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
The trial can be held “behind closed doors” if publicity would jeopardise you. If you are giving evidence in proceedings concerning sexual offences you may require that the hearing at which the evidence is given be held behind “closed doors”.
If you are a victim of mafia crime or usury (money-lending with an illegal rate of interest) you will be provided with a special phone line. If you are a victim of mafia crime you can also enter a witness protection programme.
If you are a victim of sexual offence or mafia crime, you can avoid direct contact with the offender in court proceedings and testify behind a screen or through a video-conference system.
Your face and voice can be screened from the offender and the public especially if you are a minor who is testifying in proceedings concerning sexual offences. If you are a minor your evidence will always be taken in a private court session.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
If you as a victim of crime or heir of such a victim join the proceedings as civil party (1), you have the opportunity to claim damages from the offender. In the case of conviction you need to prove damages and to specify the amount of compensation required from the offender in a written pleading, to be submitted at the end of the trial.
As a victim who has suffered damages as a consequence of an offence you may claim compensation by initiating civil proceedings. In this instance you will have to prove the crime you became a victim of. If the offender has already been convicted you can use the conviction as evidence. A civil action is not admissible in criminal proceedings against juvenile offenders.
Your right to bring civil actions in criminal proceedings may be exercised independently of any action for compensation in the civil courts.
Parallel to claiming damages from the offender you may also claim compensation from the State or by a public body, often governed indirectly by the State.
If it is unlikely, or difficult, to secure compensation from the offender, as in the case of mafia and terrorism crimes, usury (money-lending with an illegal rate of interest), or road accidents, you can apply for compensation to state-run Solidarity Funds.
If you are a victim of terrorism and have suffered permanent disability of less than 80% of your working capacity as a result of terrorist or similar acts, you are entitled to ten years' contributions to be paid into your pension fund to increase the level of your pension by the same amount on maturity, and any severance payments fund or similar scheme by the same amount.
If you have suffered a permanent disability equivalent to 80% or more of your working capacity as a result of an act of terrorism or a similar act, you will be considered for all legal purposes to be a severely disabled war veteran. You are also immediately entitled to a direct pension, calculated on the basis of the last salary received by you. If you are an heir of the victim who has died as result of such a crime you will enjoy the same right to a pension. Such pensions cannot be subject to any statutory reductions.
If you, as a result of wounds or injuries caused by terrorist activities or similar acts, suffer or have suffered permanent invalidity of not less than one-quarter of your working capacity, you are entitled to receive in addition to the above benefits, a special, non-reversible living allowance of 1.033 € per month. If you are an heir (spouse, minors, children who have reached adulthood, and parents and siblings, providing they were living with the person in question and dependent upon them) of such a victim, you will enjoy the same right and will receive two years' payments, inclusive of the thirteenth month, of the above-mentioned pension.
If you are a victim of terrorism and similar acts, you can also apply for State-funded psychological counselling for you and your family.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
In cases where offences are prosecuted upon the initiative of the prosecution you have no right to seek termination of proceedings.
In proceedings for offences that may be prosecuted only upon your request you can withdraw your complaint at the trial or on appeal. Where a complaint is withdrawn the legal costs and expenses must be paid by the offender, unless otherwise determined by the offender and you.
A reconciliation procedure is possible in criminal proceedings for minor offences before the justice of the peace:
- A successful negotiation between you and the alleged offender may lead the justice of the peace to declare the offence no longer punishable, if the justice of the peace is satisfied that the offender has repaired the offence by compensating you. Trial may also be placed on hold for no longer than three months if the defendant requires such an extension in order to provide fair reparation to you;
- The justice of the peace shall seek conciliation between the defendant and you whenever the offence belongs to the category that may only be prosecuted upon your request as the victim. To facilitate conciliation at this stage, the justice of the peace may suspend proceedings for a period not exceeding two months.
There are also a number of options for reaching conciliation between you and minor offenders. The juvenile court may:
- close the proceedings against a minor offender when the offence has caused minor damage to the interests protected by the law. In such case, the court must hear your opinion beforehand and decide whether some form of conciliation between the offender and you can be conducive to the outcome of the proceedings;
- suspend the proceedings and order that the offender be subject to probation. When such probation is successful, proceedings will be closed. Probation orders may include an encouragement to repair the damage caused and reach conciliation with you.
There are also opportunities for application of penalty upon request or plea-bargaining between the public prosecutor and the offender. It can be applied for offences punishable by a term of up to seven and a half years of imprisonment. Since you will not be involved in these negotiations you need to know the effect of their outcomes:
- You cannot use a plea-bargaining sentence in related civil proceedings as proof that the offence was committed;
- In case in which a negotiation on the sentence between the offender and the prosecution is made at the investigation stage, the court cannot pass a judgment on the civil claim and you need to resort to a civil action. However, you will be reimbursed the expenses you incurred until then by the offender (including the expenses incurred during the preliminary investigation) up to an amount defined by the court.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner who became a civil party (1), you are entitled to interpretation and translation of documents free of charge.
- Italian Constitution (La Costituzione della Repubblica Italiana) – in English and Italian
- Code of Criminal Procedure (Codice di Procedura Penale) – in Italian
- Criminal Code (Codice penale) – in Italian
- Presidential Decree 448/1988 – Adoption of provisions on criminal proceedings against juvenile offenders (Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 22 settembre 1988, n. 448, Approvazione delle disposizioni sul processo penale a carico di imputati minorenni) – in Italian
- Presidential Decree 115/2002 – Consolidated rules and regulation on legal costs (Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 30 maggio 2002, n. 115, Testo unico delle disposizioni legislative e regolamentari in materia di spese di giustizia) – in Italian
- Law 466/1980 – Donations for special categories of civil servants and citizens of duty or victims of terrorist acts (Legge 13 agosto 1980, n. 466, Speciali elargizioni a favore di categorie di dipendenti pubblici e di cittadini vittime del dovere o di azioni terroristiche) – in Italian
- Law 302/1990 – Rules for the victims of terrorism and organised crime (Legge 20 ottobre 1990, n. 302, Norme a favore delle vittime del terrorismo e della criminalita’ organizzata) – in Italian
- Law 340/1995 – Extension of benefits under Articles 4 and 5 of Law 302/1990 for the families of victims of Ustica air disaster of June 27, 1980 (Legge 8 agosto 1995, n. 340, Estensione dei benefici di cui agli articoli 4 e 5 della Legge 20 Ottobre 1990, n. 302, ai familiari delle vittime del disastro aereo di Ustica del 27 giugno 1980) – in Italian
- Law 407/1998 – New rules for victims of terrorism and organised crime (Legge 23 novembre 1998, n. 407, Nuove norme in favore delle vittime del terrorismo e della criminalità organizzata) – in Italian
- Law 44/1999 – Provisions concerning the Solidarity Fund for victims of extortion and usury (money-lending with an illegal rate of interest) (Legge 23 febbraio 1999, n. 44, Disposizioni concernenti il Fondo di solidarietà per le vittime delle richieste estorsive e dell'usura) – in Italian
- Law 512/1999 – Establishment of Revolving Fund for solidarity with the victims of mafia crimes of mafia type (Legge 22 Dicembre 1999, n. 512, Istituzione del Fondo di rotazione per la solidarietà alle vittime dei reati di tipo Mafioso) – in Italian
- Law 369/2003 – Adoption of urgent measures in favour of military and civilian victims of terrorist attacks abroad (Legge 24 dicembre 2003, n. 369, Conversione in legge, con modificazioni, del decreto-legge 28 novembre 2003, n. 337, recante disposizioni urgenti in favore delle vittime militari e civili di attentati terroristici all'estero) – in Italian
- Law 206/2004 – New rules in favour of victims of terrorirm (Legge 3 agosto 2004, n. 206, Nuove norme in favore delle vittime del terrorismo e delle stragi di tale matrice) – in Italian
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