VSE’s vision for a revised Victims’ Rights Directive
Crime can affect any one of us; no matter our gender, race, nationality, or other characteristics, we are all potential victims. 75 million people – around 15% of the EU’s population – fall victim to serious crime every year. This number is likely to be even higher as cybercrime and other emerging crimes are on the increase.
While the impact of crime can be devastating for the victims, their families, and wider society, it is impossible to predict which of us will be affected or how. Individual responses depend on past life experiences, the type and nature of the crime itself, and the victim’s personal characteristics.
The multiplicity of issues, of victims, of needs, and of sectors involved in responding to those affected by crime, creates a complex and confusing environment. While passionate organisations are driven to advocate for their ‘own’ victim groups above all others, this environment encourages fragmentation, a lack of co-ordination and consistency, and frustration. Above all, it is harmful to victims.
The Victims’ Rights Directive (VRD) sought to address issues surrounding victimisation. It created a solid foundation for victims’ rights – for the rights of all victims, without exception – propelled by their needs: for recognition and respectful treatment, for protection, support, access to justice and compensation.
Yet, the vast majority of victims never report a crime to the police and never seek justice, but those who do, may suffer further harm as a result. Many face multiple barriers in exercising their rights, accessing support, and making their voices heard. In simple terms, many of the rights established by the VRD are not put into practice by Member States.
VSE has continuously pushed for improvements – calling for a systemic, strategic and co-ordinated approach – to the Directive.
Victims’ rights and services must be seen in a similar light to our health care systems – addressing the needs of all victims, without exception, whilst incorporating specialisation where needed. No victim should be forgotten or be left voiceless – no victim should feel less important than other victims.
We are grateful that the European Commission has listened to our calls for amendments and has published a proposal for a revised Victim Rights Directive. The proposal is ambitious, and is a good starting point, but will not address all barriers preventing the implementation of victims’ rights.
VSE’s ‘Model Provisions Paper’ (MPP) sets out a vision for a revised VRD, based on the idea that States must adopt a comprehensive framework; one that is designed to implement all victims’ rights and to provide support to all victims. The Model Provisions Paper proposes solutions which will genuinely impact hundreds of millions of EU citizens. These are solutions which recognise and address many seemingly intractable problems faced by Member States when assisting victims.
The rights and obligations proposed must benefit as many victims as possible, whilst ensuring that States put in place targeted and flexible responses that address individual victim’s needs. This inclusive approach requires national strategies, a co-ordinated framework to support and communicate with victims; a framework that changes our justice systems so they are safe for and accessible to all victims.
The proposed amendments will strengthen existing rights, establish clearer obligations for Member States, and establish new rights for victims by:
- Clearer, more detailed drafting;
- Developing systemic solutions to improve coordination, planning and oversight;
- Empowering States, victims, and organisations to ensure proper implementation through evidence, data and enforcement.
To address these wide-ranging challenges, we propose the implementation of national victims’ strategies and the adoption of comprehensive national support frameworks, effective communication frameworks, and safe justice systems.
Such actions address and coordinate the support, protection and justice needs of all victims of crime, without risking fragmentation. They enable Member States to determine priorities, identify synergies for action across various victims’ fields and groups, and lessen the administrative burdens of services and authorities which work with victims.
They ensure no victim is forgotten and that no one falls through the gaps. On this foundation, specialised responses are developed which operate in a co-ordinated manner.
Almost ten years after the Victims Directive came into force, and with the prospect of another ten years passing before it is reviewed again, now is the time to achieve significant change for victims of crime.
Every year, around 75 million EU citizens, residents and visitors fall victim to serious crime in the European Union. Since the EU Victims’ Directive came into force, 750 million victims have been unable to fully access their European rights. We cannot afford to wait another ten years for improvements and leave another 750 million victims without support, protection, and justice.
We hope this paper will support the EU Commission, Members of the European Parliament, States of the EU, Civil Society, and victims themselves, in their review of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive to ensure that meaningful and impactful laws for victims are adopted.