Victim support services in the EU: an overview and assessment of victims’ rights in practice

The European Union (EU) and its Member States have undertaken many legislative and non-legislative initiatives in recent years to improve the situation of victims of crime, while work to promote the rights of victims is still ongoing. Some of the key concerns in the field include the role of the victim in criminal proceedings and facilitating access to criminal justice systems: in other words, ensuring that victims are recognised as persons with rights. These rights should be respected and safeguarded by the criminal justice system.

This factsheet highlights the recent developments at EU level, including the EU Roadmap for strengthening the rights and protection of victims of crime. The Roadmap outlines a package of measures proposed by the European Commission on victims of crime, including:

  1. a Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, protection and support of victims of crime (EU Victims’ Directive, adopted on 4 October 2012, due date for transposition by late 2015 – three years after the directive enters into force);
  2. recommendations on practical measures and best practises in relation to the directive;
  3. a Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures for victims taken in civil matters;
  4. a review of Council Directive 2004/80/EC (Compensation Directive);
  5. a review of Council Directive 2004/80/EC (Compensation Directive);
  6. specific needs of victims.

A core component in meeting the rights and needs of victims is the provision of adequate victim support services throughout the EU. It is particularly important to recognise that access to victim support services is a fundamental right of victims. Such support services should provide victims with information and support at different stages after victimisation, which can range from practical advice about how to claim compensation through to support when going to court.

At the request of the European Commission, the FRA initiated a project on ‘Victim support services in the EU: an overview and assessment of victims’ rights in practice’ in November 2011. The project aims to provide the first independent overview of targeted victim support services in the EU’s 27 Member States and Croatia, including a review of practices and gaps in service provision at the national and regional levels. It will look at the provision of services by both the public and private sectors, with a view to developing an overview of the various models and features of victim support in existence across the EU.