It is important that victims have a say in criminal proceedings against the offender. While the main purpose of criminal proceedings is to assess the responsibility of the offender(s), in general victims may participate actively and in their own right.
The role of victims in criminal proceedings and the relevant law of the Member States differ considerably from one Member State to another, but the European Union (EU) has adopted a Framework Decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings to set common standards, which are to be applied by all EU Member States, and to improve the services on offer to victims of crime. This legal instrument was adopted to ensure that victims can participate actively, have adequate rights and are being treated fairly within criminal proceedings.
In 2009, the European Commission drew up a Report on the implementation of the above framework decision, which summarizes the measures taken by EU Member States to implement this EU instrument. The report concluded that the current EU legislation has not yet been effective in achieving minimum standards for victims across the EU.
The Commission therefore put forward, on 18 May 2011, a legislative package to strengthen the legal framework on victims' rights, including a Communication presenting the Commission's current and future action in relation to victims, a proposal for a Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and a Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters (which complements the Directive on the European Protection Order which applies to protection orders adopted under criminal procedures).
The Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime was adopted in October 2012 and entered into force on 15 November 2012. The EU Member States have to implement the provisions into their national laws by 16 November 2015.
The new Directive considerably strengthens the rights of victims and their family members to information, support and protection as well as their procedural rights when participating in criminal proceedings. It also includes provisions that will ensure that professionals are trained on victims' needs and encourage cooperation between Member States and awareness raising on victims' rights.
As regards protection measures, two instruments were adopted to ensure mutual recognition of protection measures in the EU. The Directive on the European Protection Order of December 2011 was complemented by the Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters adopted in June 2013. These instruments will ensure that victims can rely on restraint or protection orders issued against the perpetrator in their home country if they travel or move within the EU.
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Last update: 27/02/2014