Introduction

All victims of crime, and their family members, are entitled to defined legal benefits.  These benefits, or rights, are available from the moment a crime has been reported to the authorities and include the right to information, support, and help with the criminal justice system. However, victims may have different rights depending on their country of residence and the country in which the crime took place: not all countries give the same benefits as those available in the European Union.  If you have been a victim of a crime outside the EU and wish to find out how you can access the support available to you, please go to the website of your government or embassy.

The European Union guarantees a minimum set of rights and certain standards, which Member States are expected to legally uphold. In 2012, the European Union adopted a Directive establishing Minimum Standards on the Rights, Support and Protection of Victims of Crime – the Victims’ Rights Directive – that applies to every EU Member State, except Denmark.

The EU Victims’ Rights Directive ensures that citizens, who have fallen victim to crime are recognised and treated with respect, and have access to justice. However, and in addition to the Victims’ Rights Directive, which covers all victims of all crimes, other specialist decrees such as the Directive on Trafficking in Human Beings, Directive on Combatting Terrorism, Directive on Child Sexual Exploitation, and the Directive on Compensation have been adopted by the EU.

The EU Commission’s e-justice portal has information on how each Member State implements these rights.

Video: https://victim-support.eu/help-for-victims/vse-video-on-victim-support-and-victims-rights/

Know your rights

Right to respect and recognition

You always have the right to be treated with respect by the criminal justice agencies, and other agencies, you interact with because of a crime.

You should be recognised as having a legitimate interest and role in the events that take place after the crime.

Right to understand and be understood

You have the right to receive information in clear, accessible language, orally or in writing. All information you receive must be presented in a language you can understand, while careful attention should be given to victims with special communication needs, such as hearing or speech impairments, or second language difficulties.

Right to be heard

You have the right to actively participate in the criminal proceedings and give evidence during the trial.

Right to receive information

You should have access to all relevant information, from the time of reporting the crime and throughout the criminal justice process. This should include information on what will happen next and, in the future; your role (if any); reports on progress (explaining any delays) and outcomes of criminal proceedings.

Information should also be available on where you may be able to get further assistance including protection, support, legal aid, and compensation. You should also be given the opportunity to make statements to criminal justice agencies dealing with your case.

You should be able to understand the information that is given to you. The language should be easy to grasp and available in alternative languages or formats. If needed, victims who do not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings should be provided with interpretation and translation of essential information, free of charge.

You should be told who to contact if you want to discuss the information that has been provided.

Right to reimbursement of expenses

If you attend the trial as a claimant or witness, you have the right to ask for your expenses to be reimbursed.

Right to protection

You have the right to physical and psychological protection, so appropriate measures should be taken to protect your privacy and (photographic) image. All victims of crime have the right to a timely individual assessment to identify and establish specific protection measures. If required, protection should be available for vulnerable victims/witnesses when giving evidence in court.

Right to protection includes protection from secondary and repeat victimisation. It is assumed that child victims will always have specific protection needs and be provided with specific protective measures.

Right to access victim support services

You have the right to access support services. European countries must ensure the referral of victims by the police to victim support services, which can:

  • Provide information on criminal justice systems and the role/rights of victims;
  • Provide emotional and practical support;
  • Accompany you, if necessary and permissible, during criminal proceedings.

Victim support services should be easily accessible, free of charge, confidential, victim-focused, and competent in dealing with the challenges faced by the victims they serve.

For information regarding available victim support services across Europe, please click here.

Right to interact with trained professionals

You have the right to receive information and support from trained professionals. Personnel, including criminal justice professionals, who interact with victims of crime should have received training appropriate to their level of contact.

Right to compensation

As a victim of crime, you are entitled to fair and appropriate compensation for the injuries you have suffered. In some European countries, compensation is awarded as part of the criminal trial, but in other countries compensation is dealt with separately from the trial. The victim support service in your country can give you more information on the relevant compensation rules.

Detailed information about your right to compensation is available in Directive 2004/80/EC on compensation to crime victims and the VSE publication a Journey from crime to compensation.

Right to interact with trained professionals

You have the right to receive information and support from trained professionals. As such, personnel, including criminal justice professionals, in contact with victims of crime should have received training appropriate to their level of contact.

Right to cross-border assistance

Anyone who has suffered directly from a crime that took place in a country other than the one the victim lives in, is considered a victim of cross border crime. If you fall victim to crime abroad, the justice department in the country where you live should cooperate with its counterpart in the country where the crime took place, to assist you in your participation of the case. Victim Support Europe can also help you access support services in your own country.

Victims of violent, intentional crimes can apply for compensation, either in the country where the crime happened, or in the country where you live.