Fabian Demicoli

Crime Victims’ Rights in the EU

One of the
European Union's main principles is free movement, which enforces the Union's
responsibility to ensuring that people – particularly EU citizens – that live
within its borders are safe. When citizens have fallen victim to a crime, they
are allowed particular services and rights that can help them recover and gain
compensation in the aftermath of the ordeal.

First, citizens have the right
to recognition and respect. This means that a victim must be treated with
respect during all interactions with criminal justice agencies and should be
acknowledged as having a genuine role in the case proceedings. Victims also
possess the right to be heard and the ability to provide evidence during the
trial. Moreover, when a crime victim attends the trial as a witness of party,
his or her expenses should be reimbursed.

The right to information is
essential and involves a number of additional points. Access to relevant
information should be given to the victim at the earliest period and during the
entire criminal justice process. This data involves information on the
procedures and the victim's part in them, updates on what progress has been
made, and the result of the criminal proceedings. The language of the
information provided to the victim should be easily understood, with the
information also available in other formats and languages. When necessary,
citizens are entitled to free of charge translations and interpretations of
important information. Additionally, one should also be informed who to contact
in case the information provided requires further discussion with a
professional. This leads onto the next entitlement which is the right to
interact with trained professionals. Crime victims have the right to receive
support from professionals that have been appropriately trained to deal with
their case.

Additionally, victims have the
right to appropriate and fair compensation for any damages suffered. Whilst in
some EU states, compensation is granted separately from the trial, in others it
bestowed as part of the criminal proceedings. If a citizen falls victim to a
crime in another country, the home country should collaborate with the country
in which the crime was undertaken in order to assist the victim in
participating in the case. This right of cross-border assistance also means
that victims of violent crimes can submit a claim for compensation in either
the home country (where the victim lives) or the country in which the crime
occurred. The final two rights encapsulate what has already been mentioned.
These are the right to support and the right to protection. The former
authorises crime victims to access support services such as Victim Support
Europe, whilst the latter gives victims the right to protection of their
psychological and physical integrity. In addition, one's privacy and
photographic image is also protected. The right to protection also covers
protection from repeat victimisation, with child victims always acknowledged as
requiring specific protection needs. Assessments of all crime victims can determine
whether the victim requires any special protection measures.

Victim Support Europe (VSE) is
an organisation that promotes the progress of victim rights throughout the
European continent. It aids each and every victim in Europe to access
information and support services in the aftermath of the crime, irrespective of
where the crime happened and where the victim resides. Victim Support Malta is
the local representative of VSE Europe and provides services that are free of
charge and available to everyone, regardless of whether or not the criminality
has been reported and where it occurred. VSE Malta does not form part of the
courts, police or any other criminal justice agency. VSE Malta can be contacted
in confidentiality through its support line: 21228333.

The European Commission takes
the issue of supporting victims of crime very seriously, as the treatment of
victims reflects the quality of European justice systems. The priority is
therefore not solely the prevention of crime, but the provision of support and
protection to individuals who unfortunately fall victim to crime. The 2001
Council Framework Decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings
set out the basic rights for crime victims within the EU. This Framework
Decision, however, has since been replaced by Directive 2012/29/EU which Member
States are obligated to fully implement into their national laws by 16 November
2015. It improves upon the 2001 Framework Decision as it adds new rights and
obligations. Family members of deceased victims, for example, are now defined
as victims themselves. Family members of victims that were fortunate enough to
survive their ordeal are entitled to protection and support. Furthermore, this
new Directive strengthens the rights that have already been mentioned in this
article, such as matters of information, interpretation and translation.
Therefore, it is clear that help is there for those who need it.

Article by Andrew Rizzo Naudi. Andrew is currently in his second
year reading a bachelors degree in European Studies.

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