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VSE’s Autumn Conference entitled “Safe Justice for Victims: Transforming Justice Systems/Future Trends” was held online on December 3rd, 2021. Please find the recording of the event on VSE’s YouTube channel.

We proudly look back at this successful conference that provided the opportunity to discuss the notion of ‘Safe Justice for Victims’. The event’s feedback report is now available here.

The Conference is an international event bringing together the key players working with victims of crime. Between 100 and 150 participants from victim support organisations as well as practitioners, researchers, experts, academics, government officials and criminal justice officials attend annually.

The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Safe Justice for Victims’ which will be the opportunity to discuss the current state of practice of criminal justice system, thereby raising awareness on safe reporting as the first step in seeking justice and addressing the question on what makes the criminal justice system safe for victims? This will be followed by an intellectual discussion on better path forward for criminal justice.

We are truly looking forward to coming together again with all VSE members, partners and friends on 3 December 2021!

Please find the links to join the conference below:

  • You can join the conference via the livestream. Here you can follow the conference anonymously, without connecting to ZOOM. You will have no possibility to ask questions to speakers and other conference attendees or speakers will not be able to hear or see you.
  • You can join the conference via the ZOOM link. Here you can follow the conference with your camera on, however you will not be able to speak. In case you have questions for our conference speakers, you will have the possibility to pose them in the chat.
    Passcode to enter conference meeting: 2021

! IMPORTANT: Covid-19 information – Message from VSE Executive Board !

As you will no doubt have seen, around Europe we are experiencing a surge in covid cases and increasing restrictions. On Friday, we were also informed of a new variant – Omicron – and the first case of it in Belgium.

Due to these developments, the Executive Board of VSE met on Saturday 27 November, and with a heavy heart made the decision that VSE’s live events on 2nd and 3rd of December should all be moved to fully online. This means all events will go ahead, but only in the online format.

We as Board members are extremely disappointed and we don’t doubt you will feel the same. We also understand that many will feel the risks are manageable. Yet, ultimately, we must act responsibly not only to avoid risks to individuals but also to the operation of frontline services which may have staff entering quarantine if countries change restrictions during the week.

We knew there would be risks to a live event when we made the original decision to hold the conference in Belgium. This is why we have in place a fully contingency plan for running our events online. We are now in the process of setting up links for everyone to participate and we will inform everyone of the links as quickly as possible.

Whilst we are deeply disappointed to be moving to fully online, we know this is the right decision in the interests of all and we are confident that our online conference will remain highly engaging, informative and inspiring.

Thank you all for your understanding in these difficult times and we look forward to seeing you online on 3rd of December!

Speakers' Biographies

Find more information on the speakers via this button.

Conference Programme

09:00 – 18:00

09:00 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 10:35 Welcome and opening speeches

10:00 – 10:05 Welcome speech

  • Geraldine Hanna, President, Victim Support Europe

10:05 – 10:10 Introductory Speech

  • Levent Altan, Executive Director, Victim Support Europe

10:10 – 10:15 Opening speech (pre-recorded)

  • Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, European Commission

10:15 – 10:20 Opening speech

  • Richard Sonnenschein, Acting Director of Criminal Justice, European Commission

10:20 – 10:35 Victim Testimony

  • Nina Fuchs, Germany

10:35 – 12:00 Part 1: Safe reporting as the first step in seeking justice

10:35 – 10:55 Defining ‘Safe justice for victims’

  • Levent Altan, Executive Director, Victim Support Europe

10:55 – 11:15 How to ensure safe reporting for migrant victims of sexual violence? A framework for policy and practice

  • Nikolett Szelei, Researcher, Ghent University

11:15 – 11:35 Under-reporting of hate crime: why is it a problem and what can be done about it?

  • Aleš Gião Hanek, Hate Crime Officer, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

11:35 – 11:55   Research to Action: Overcoming the Challenges of Underreporting Together with the Victims and Practitioners

  • Aleksandra Anikina, Communications Officer, The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI)

11:55 – 12:30 Coffee Break

12:30 – 13:30 PART 2: Modern solutions to effectively support victims in criminal proceedings

12:30 – 12:50 A critical break down of EU justice systems

  • Suzan van der Aa, Professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Maastricht University

12:50 – 13:30 Modern solutions to support victims at court (Panel discussion)

  • Peter Crory, Head of Service (Belfast), Victim Support Northern Ireland
    360 degrees camera courtrooms
  • Dympna Kenny, General Manager, Victim Support at Court (V-SAC)
    Court accompaniment service of VSAC
  • Frederico Moyano Marques, Chief Operations Officer and Senior Advisor, Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV)
    Victim accompaniment at the police and at court
  • Robin Fontijne, Legal Policy Advisor, Victim Support the Netherlands
    Protection measures at courts

13:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 15:35 PART 2: Modern solutions to effectively support victims in criminal proceedings (continuation)

14:30 – 14:45 Victim Testimonials

  • Philippe Vandenberghe & Florian Jehin, Belgium

14:45 – 15:05 The necessary consideration of victims in the organisation of the trial of the terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015

  • Pauline Okroglic, Legal Officer – Victim Support and European Affairs, France Victimes

15:05 – 15:35 Effective communication and information sharing mechanisms within criminal justice system (Panel discussion)

  • Paloma Pérez Cortijo, Directorate-general for Support to Victims of Terrorism, Ministry of Interior, Spain
    Good practices/challenges regarding communication with victims of terrorism in Spain
  • Helen Williams, Family Liaison Coordinator, Operation Kenova
    Information provision, securing confidence and trust of families of victims of crime
  • Sigal Haimov, Consultant, Victim Support Europe
    Effective communication and empathy training

15:35 – 16:35 PART 3: Collaborative working to achieve better justice for victims

15:35 – 15:55 Victims’ help and support Centre: A new path

  • Jérôme Moreau, President, “Association Nivernaise d’Aide aux Victimes d´Infractions” and Vice-President, France Victimes and Victim Support Europe

15:55 – 16:15 Judicial Training on Victims’ Rights in the EU in practice: The role of the European Judicial Training Network

  • Mónica Martí García, Senior Project Manager, European Judicial Training Network (EJTN)

16:15 – 16:35 The importance of training European law enforcement on safe justice

  • Elisabeth Zinschitz, Head of Sector – CEPOL Knowledge Centres, European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL)

16:35 – 16:55 Coffee Break

16:55 – 17:45 PART 4: Live debate “What can we do to make the criminal justice system work better?”

Moderator: Suzan van der Aa

Speaker participants: Nikolett Szelei, Monica Marti-Garcia, Saar Baert

17:45 – 18:00 Closing remarks

  • Petra Klein, Vice-President, Victim Support Europe

Content Themes

Theme 1: Safe Reporting

Safe reporting, which is part of the broader concept of safe justice, refers to the ability of a victim to report a crime in safe conditions, without fear of repercussions. This concept is particularly important for vulnerable victims, such as victims of sexual violence, children, and undocumented migrants. This part of the conference will discuss the concepts of safe justice and safe reporting and provide an overview of the current situation and the challenges associated with it. It will further demonstrate how safe reporting can be achieved in practice and provide tools for effective evidence gathering in preparation for criminal proceedings, and, finally, address online hate crime and the underreporting associated with it.

Theme 2: Modern solutions to effectively support victims in criminal proceedings

This part of the conference begins with a critical reflection on the criminal justice systems and the ways in which they are not always designed to provide safe justice for victims. It then hosts a panel discussion on specific examples of modern solutions designed to effectively support victims in criminal proceedings implemented around the EU. Some examples of these solutions include the 360-degree courtrooms in Northern Ireland, various victim accompaniment programs, and protection measures in courts.

Theme 2 (continuation): Modern solutions to effectively support victims in criminal proceedings

Continuing from Part 1 of this session, Part 2 is dedicated to effective communication and information sharing mechanisms within the criminal justice systems. First, tailored approaches to victims with specialised needs will be discussed using the example of terrorism trials in France and the experiences of the victims during the trials. The following panel discussion will focus on communication systems and channels as well as developing interpersonal communication skills and building empathy in order to communicate with victims effectively, relying on professional experience of the speakers.

Theme 3: Collaborative working to achieve better justice for victim

This session is dedicated to multiagency cooperation as a tool for ensuring the best possible outcomes for victims. It will explore how law enforcement authorities, victim support organisations, and all other professionals coming in contact with victims can work together towards achieving safe justice. The session will also highlight the importance of training in this process, most notably of European judiciary and law enforcements on the concept and the practices of safe justice.

Theme 4: What can we do to make the criminal justice systems work better?

This final part of the conference will invite all participants to engage in an in-depth discussion about actionable changes that can be made towards improving the criminal justice systems and achieving safe justice for victims of crime. The debate will open the following questions:

  • Should all victims have the right to free lawyer?
  • What are the current barriers to safe justice?
  • What are the alternatives to formal justice?
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