An introduction

Free movement is one of the key principles of the European Union. That imposes a duty on the European Union (EU) to ensure that people moving within its borders are safe. Beyond protecting its own citizens, the EU needs to guarantee the safety of the increasing number of foreign nationals coming to travel, work or study within the Union.

Democratic societies have an obligation to alleviate the effects of crime, including the adverse consequences of victimisation. European countries should ensure the effective recognition of, and respect for, the rights of victims with regard to their human rights. They should in particular respect the security, dignity, private and family life of victims and recognise the negative effects of crime on victims (Council of Europe Recommendation (2006)8 on Assistance to Crime Victims, Article 2).

European countries should identify and support measures to alleviate the negative effects of crime and to ensure that victims are assisted in all aspects of their rehabilitation, in the community, at home and in the workplace (Council of Europe Recommendation (2006) on Assistance to Crime Victims, Article 3). Being a victim of crime affects all aspects of life and may leave the person feeling anxious, fearful, angry or depressed. Experience has shown that victims are more likely to cope effectively with the emotional consequences of crime and make a good recovery if they are provided with an early opportunity to talk openly and in confidence about their reactions, to people who have been trained to offer suitable support. 

If you have fallen victim to crime, you are entitled to certain rights and services in the aftermath of crime, both in the criminal justice system and wider society. In 2015  VSE produced a video on victim support and victims’ rights, explaining in a simple way victims’ rights and services. You can watch it here

Below follows a summary of your rights as a victim of crime as stated in the following documents:

Please note that the practical implementation of these rights may vary between different EU Member States.

You can find further information on rights in each Member State on the EU Commission’s e-justice portal.

Right to respect and recognition

You should be treated with respect in all contacts with the criminal justice agencies and any other agencies you come into contact with, as a result of crime.

You should be recognised as having a legitimate interests and role in the proceeding of the case.

Right to be heard

Member States should safeguard the possibility for you to be heard and give evidence during trial.

Right to information

You should have access to relevant information at the earliest stage and throughout the criminal justice process. This should include information on procedures, your role in them (if any), reports on progress (giving an explanation for any  delays) and outcomes of criminal proceedings;

Information should also be provided regarding where, if possible, you can get further assistance including protection, support, legal aid and compensation. You should also be given the opportunity to provide relevant information 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 understand and the information should be available in alternative languages or formats; If required victims who do not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings should be provided with free of charge interpretation and translations of essential information;

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 party or witness, your expenses should be reimbursed.

Right to protection

You have a right to protection of your physical and psychological integrity. This also means that appropriate measures should be taken to protect your privacy and photographic image. All victims of crime have the right to a timely and individual assessment to identify specific protection needs and to determine whether or not they need any specific protection measures. If required, protective measures should be develop for vulnerable victims/witnesses when giving evidence in court.

Right to protection includes protection from secondary and repeat victimisation.Child victims shall always be presumed to have specific protection needs and provided with specific protective measures.

Right to support

You have a right to access support services. European countries should facilitate the referral of victims by the police to access victim support services;

Victim Support can for instance:

  • Provide information on criminal justice systems and the role/rights of victims;
  • Provide emotional and practical support;
  • Accompany you, if necessary and possible, during criminal proceedings;
  • For information regarding available Victim Support services across Europe, please click here;
  • Victim Support services should be: easily accessible; free of charge; confidential; victim-focused; fully competent to deal with the challenges faced by the victims they serve.

Right to compensation

As a victim of crime, you may be 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 awarded separately from the trial. Victim Support in your country can give you more information regarding the rules for compensation relevant to you.

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

If you fall victim to crime abroad, the country where you live should cooperate with 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 submit an application for compensation either in the country where the crime happened, or the country where the you live.

To access more information on your rights as cross border victim, please check the leaflet produced by VSE under the Project CABVIS – Capacity Building for EU Crime Victim Support . This is an easy to read leaflet, available in 32 different languages, which provides case examples and lists the victims’ rights.

In addition to all of the above mentioned documents, you may also consult the Resolution of the Council on a Roadmap for Strengthening the Rights and Protection of Victims, in Particular in Criminal Proceedings.

Video on victim support and victims’ rights