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Parliament backs minimum rights for crime victims across the EU

[Brussels, 12 September 2012, EP press release] All crime victims will have the same basic rights across the EU, including an assessment of their specific needs, under a directive endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday 12 September. Free support services, such as psychological help, will be provided for victims, who will have the right to be questioned by police and heard in court in a language they understand. Some 75 million people suffer from crimes in the EU each year.

Victims of crimes committed abroad may face serious problems due to differences between cultures, languages and laws. The agreed text, adopted by 611 votes to 9, with 13 abstentions, aims to ensure that whatever the crime - mugging, robbery, assault, rape, harassment, hate crime, terrorist attack, or human trafficking - and wherever it is committed in the EU, all victims enjoy the same basic rights in criminal proceedings, are treated with respect and dignity and have access to victim-support services, justice and compensation.

“This directive says loudly and clearly to victims that their rights are no longer going to be neglected. This will serve to build confidence in justice," said the civil liberties committee rapporteur, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril (EPP, ES), in the debate on Tuesday. The women’s rights committee rapporteur, Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, BG), commented: "This legislation is guided by one main principle: the interest of the victims and the support they need in getting through a process which can be particularly difficult for them."

Individual assessment

All victims will have an individual assessment of their specific needs at the earliest opportunity. Depending on personal characteristics, such as age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, and the nature and circumstances of the crime, anyone could have particular protection needs, stresses the agreed text, which adds that the individual assessments should be repeated during criminal proceedings to take account of any changes in the victim’s situation.

Support services

The directive will also oblige member states to ensure that victims and their family members have access to free-of-charge and confidential victim support services (for example, psychological support) from the moment the victim reports the crime, throughout and after the investigation and trial and regardless of where the crime took place. Specialist support services should also be set up for victims with specific needs, such as victims of gender-based violence or children.

Clear information and translation

Victims will have to be informed of their rights, either orally or in writing, in a language they understand. Interpretation and translation services will be made available to ensure that they can take an active part in the criminal proceedings (interviews and court hearings) in their own language.

Next steps

The Council will also have to approve the directive. Once the new rules are adopted, EU countries will have three years to transpose them into their national laws. The UK and Ireland have decided to apply them. Denmark will not apply them, under its default opt-out for justice and home affairs.

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