With around ’30 million crimes, excluding minor offences’ reported to police across the European Union each year, it is vital that all victims of crime across the Union are treated properly throughout the entirety of their experience of the criminal justice system. Many of these victims will have to go through respective criminal justice systems as witnesses (though the Directive does not specifically mention witnesses) so it is important that all member states and all criminal justice agencies have effective and appropriate support services in place.
You may be familiar with the term EU ‘Victims Directive’, and you may be aware that all European member states have until the 16th November 2015 to fully comply with this directive. So it is crucial we understand exactly why this directive is so important for victims of crime across the European Union, and what these new laws, regulations and policies will mean for victims’ rights and support services.
The Victims Directive, formally entitled ‘Directive 2012/29/EU’ expresses in its title exactly what the directive will achieve, and that is ‘establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime’, and with these rights effectively in place, the directive will ensure that everyone who becomes a victim of crime will receive the proper and necessary support, protection and access to justice they are owed and that they need. Simply put- the directive will ensure that support to victims of crime is an absolute priority, and that the treatment and support victims receive reflects this.
In the United Kingdom, the implementation and the practical responsibility for ensuring that victims will be supported in accordance with the Directive is being shared between our central government who have and continue to commission specialist victim support services and, our PCCs, who have taken on the direct responsibility for victims in their area; they will ensure the services they commission are appropriate and properly targeted and deliver the support victims of crime need.
The Directive, which has built upon previous legislation (the Council Framework Decision), will achieve and establish more tangible and comprehensive rights for victims. There are various new and improved rights and obligations, directly relevant to victim support services.
Some key areas include;
-Victims right to understand and be understood, (including the court process and support services etc.)
-Victims participation in criminal proceedings, (including rights to be heard, giving evidence, legal aid etc.)
– Protection of victims and recognition of victims with specific protection needs (focusing and assuring needs of victims are fully met)
There are, of course, many articles relating directly to victim support services, and throughout the upcoming weeks Supporting Justice will be taking a focused look at the most relevant and substantial articles relevant to victim support services. With the November deadline fast approaching, it is crucial to understand and pinpoint exactly how the directive is going to achieve its aims and help deliver these fundamental rights for victims of crime.
Our following EU Directive Blog series, will provide analysis of this important Directive, one which we hope will help to ensure all victims of crime across the European Union are offered the care they need and are owed by the criminal justice systems that are there to serve them.
 EU Commission- Stats on annual reported crime numbers across the EU
Link to the full document ‘Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA’