CM(2006)61 Addendum revised 14 June 20061
967 Meeting, 14 June 2006
10 Legal questions
10.3 European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) –
Explanatory memorandum to the Recommendation Rec(2006)… on assistance to crime victims
Item prepared by the GR-J of 1.06.2006
Background to Recommendation R(87)21 on assistance to victims and the prevention of victimisation
1. Statistics show that victimisation is a daily phenomenon in Europe. Threats of terrorism, as well as terrorist acts and other forms of transnational crimes, also call for improved forms of assistance to victims.
2. In 2003, following a study2 on the relevance of Recommendation No. R (87) 21, the Criminological Scientific Council (PC-CSC) concluded that a new recommendation should be developed on this topic that would update Recommendation No. R (87) 21.
3. Recommendation No. R (87) 21 was designed to complement the 1983 European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crime (ETS No. 116) and Recommendation No. R (85) 11 on the position of the victim within the framework of criminal law and procedure.
4. Since the adoption of Recommendation No. R (87) 21 in 1987, there have been significant developments in the field of assistance to victims in Europe. Member states’ legislation and practice have evolved, as documented in several related surveys.
5. In 1996, the Council of Europe’ Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation No. R (96) 8 on “crime policy in Europe in a time of change”, which calls member states to have a coherent and rational crime policy directed towards, inter alia, the provision of assistance to victims. In addition, the Committee of Ministers has adopted several other Recommendations3 which provide for assistance to particular categories of victims.
6. The United Nations4 and the European Union5 have elaborated several standards in the field of victims.
Victims of terrorism
7. Assistance to victims of terrorism has been considered a priority after the terrorist acts in New York in 2001, in Beslan (Russian Federation), in Madrid in 2004, and in London in 2005.
8. Within the Council of Europe, the work in the legal field has been involved to the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), which has notably been involved in the elaboration of legal instruments to fight terrorism.
9. At their Conferences in 2003 and in 2005, the European Ministers of Justice invited the Committee of Ministers, where necessary, to adopt new rules concerning the improvement of, inter alia, the types of support offered to victims of terrorist acts and their families6.
10. As a result of the CODEXTER’s work, the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No. 196) was opened for signature in May 2005. Article 13 of the Convention specifically deals with the protection of, compensation of, and assistance to victims of terrorism7.
Terms of reference of the Group of Specialists on Assistance to Victims
11. The Committee of Ministers approved, on 15 December 2004, the terms of reference for a Group of specialists on assistance to victims and prevention of victimisation (PC-S-AV).
12. The Committee is called upon, under the authority of the CDPC, to elaborate a draft Recommendation (updating Recommendation No. R (87) 21) setting out, inter alia, appropriate standards and principles in this area, and notably taking into account the relevant Council of Europe Recommendations and Resolutions.
Work of the Group of Specialists on Assistance to Victims
13. The PC-S-AV held five meetings between January 2005 and March 2006. In accordance with its terms of reference, the PC-S-AV followed a twin-track approach: initially it was requested to give priority, in terms of time and content, to assistance to the victims of terrorism, on which it reported to both the CDPC and to the CODEXTER in June 2005, while keeping the CDDH informed, and only subsequently did it concentrate on the wider aspects of assistance to victims, on which it reported to the CDPC.
14. After having consulted the CODEXTER and kept the CDDH informed, the group adopted at its 5th meeting, 15-16 March 2006, the preliminary draft Recommendation and its explanatory memorandum, which were sent to the CDPC for approval.
15. The draft recommendation was approved by the CDPC on 07 April 2006 and adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on ---.
General considerations: aims of the Recommendation
16. The aims of the Recommendation are threefold.
17. The first aim is to update Recommendation R(87)21 on the assistance to victims, taking into account developments in the legislation and practice of the member States since 1987.
18. The second aim is to assist member States in the prevention of repeat victimisation, in particular for victims from vulnerable sections of society.
19. The third aim is to provide member States with useful guidance in defining their legislation and practice on assistance to victims of terrorism.
Commentary on the provisions of the Recommendation and its Appendix.
Victims of crime and victims of terrorism – paras. iv, v and vi.
20. From the outset, the Committee had to decide to what extent the new Recommendation should be devoted specifically to assistance to victims of terrorism as opposed to victims in general.
21. Although the crime of terrorism has been prioritised in some countries, the Committee was of the opinion that the needs of victims of terrorism were essentially the same of those of victims of other crimes.
22. It based its reflections on national legislation and practice of Member States. For this purpose, it requested the assistance of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, which produced a study entitled “Victims of Terrorism – Policies and Legislation in Europe – an overview on victim related assistance and support”. 8
23. The report shows that a few countries have specific assistance policies for victims of terrorism, such as France, Italy, Greece, Russian Federation, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom (Northern Ireland). Most States have some assistance programmes which apply to victims in general and thus may apply also to victims of terrorism. Fewer States have implemented State compensation schemes for victims of crime in general or victims of terrorism in particular.
24. The Group took also into particular account the relevant Resolutions of European Justice Ministers, the Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight Against Terrorism adopted by the Committee of Ministers in July 2002, the Guidelines on the Protection of Victims of Terrorist Acts adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 2 March 20059 and the work of the CODEXTER, including their country profiles on relevant legal and institutional capacities in the fight against terrorism10.
25. On the basis of the materials provided to the Committee by the scientific expert from the Max Planck Institute, the Committee adopted a report on the assistance to victims of terrorism in June 2005, which was sent to the CODEXTER and to the CDPC,11 which have given comments on it.
26. In its discussions on the text of the new Recommendation on the assistance to victims in general, the Committee decided to discuss each Section successively and to include, where appropriate, provisions applying specifically to victims of terrorism.
27. Unless stated otherwise, the provisions included in the Recommendation should be understood as applying to all crime victims, including victims of terrorism.
28. This Explanatory Memorandum contains some examples of national practice. In addition, the report “Victims of Terrorism – policies and legislation in Europe”, as well as the country profiles gathered by the CODEXTER provide information about the main elements of national practices and legislation on the compensation of victims of terrorism. These elements may be considered by States when applying Art. 13 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No. 196)12.
Scope of assistance to victims
29. Assistance to victims has been understood, for the purposes of this Recommendation, as including various measures which States are encouraged to adopt with the overall aim of alleviating the negative effects of crime on victims and helping the victim’s rehabilitation in the community.
30. Accordingly, in addition to support services offered to victims, the recommendation also deals with such matters as the provision of information to victims, victim protection, social measures, selection and training of staff working with victims, aspects of criminal and civil justice systems, compensation and mediation. Such a holistic approach to victim assistance reflects the ways in which the different actors and institutions in society should interact with victims.
31. The Recommendation provides detailed provisions on the various types of assistance to victims. The detailed character of the Recommendation is deliberate, and is intended to provide useful guidance for practitioners and public authorities in the development of practice and legislation. The standards set forth in the Recommendation should contribute to defining new aspirations in the field of assistance to victims.
Role of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) – para. viii
32. The Committee paid tribute to the important role played by non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) in assisting victims and in developing a dialogue with the relevant public authorities. NGOs have made a significant contribution to the promotion of victims’ issues and to the strengthening of relevant institutional and legal frameworks.
33. In particular, the Committee made reference to the work and experience gained by associations such as the “European Forum for Victim Services” (hereafter “the Forum”), a network of 21 non-governmental national organisations from nineteen European States. The Committee was assisted by policy statements adopted by the Forum on several issues13.
Crime prevention and prevention of repeat victimisation - para. x
34. The Recommendation covers assistance to victims and the prevention of repeat victimisation. Unlike the Recommendation R (87) 21, it does not deal with crime prevention in general, a matter now more commonly referred to as “crime reduction”.
35. Crime reduction is considered to be an issue that affects the whole community, not just those people who have become the victims of crime14. In view of the large volume of work carried out on this subject, it has been agreed that this topic should be made the subject of a separate document and excluded from the Committee’s terms of reference.
36. Far more is now known about the phenomenon known as “repeat victimisation”15, which is the only aspect of crime reduction which does have immediate relevance for people who have already been the victims of crime. Research in various European countries has confirmed that once a crime has been committed, the possibility of a similar crime being committed against the same victim, or the same household, increases dramatically.
37. The new Recommendation draws attention to this phenomenon and to the State’s responsibility to include measures to prevent repeat victimisation within the general provision of services to victims.
General considerations on assistance to victims – para. xi
38. The Committee expressed its firm conviction that assistance to victims should be understood, developed and promoted for its own sake.
39. In particular, assistance provided to victims needs to be conceived, organised and provided independently from the overall interests of the criminal justice system. Even when the interests and the position of victims are taken into consideration as part of the criminal justice procedure, the overall aim of assistance policies to victims should have the interests of victims as their primary focus.
40. Nothing in the Recommendation prevents States from adopting more favourable measures and services than the ones described in the Recommendation.
41. The definitions proposed in this Section aim to help the reader understand the scope for application of terms referred to in the Recommendation which are not defined in other Council of Europe instruments.
42. Victim: the definition is consistent with the European Union Framework Decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings Art.116. It covers natural persons who are victims of all types of crimes, including non-violent crimes and crimes committed through negligence.
43. For the purposes of the Recommendation, the immediate family and dependents of the victim of crime have been included in the definition of victims. “Immediate family” includes partners, both married and unmarried.
44. The definition of victims and the inclusion of family members and dependents is consistent with the UN standards, such as the Declaration of basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985)17.
45. Repeat victimisation: the definition has been agreed by the PC-S-AV on the basis of the work of researchers and practitioners. It refers to situations when the same person suffers from more than one criminal incident over a specific period of time. It applies, for example, to victims of repeated burglaries, continuing domestic violence or any form of harassment.
46. Secondary victimisation: Research and professional experience show that secondary victimisation, generated by institutions or individuals, is often experienced by victims in the aftermath of crime. Secondary victimisation involves a lack of understanding of the suffering of victims which can leave them feeling both isolated and insecure, loosing faith in the help available from their communities and the professional agencies. The experience of secondary victimisation intensifies the immediate consequences of crime by prolonging or aggravating the victim’s trauma; attitudes, behaviour, acts or omissions can leave victims feeling alienated from society as a whole.18
47. The State’s responsibility to assist victims derives from the obligations set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). States party to the Convention have a positive obligation to “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in [the] Convention” (Art 1 ECHR), and in particular their rights to life (Art 2), security (Art 5), private and family life (Art 8).
48. States should recognise the negative effects of crime on victims and take measures to alleviate these effects and help the victim’s rehabilitation in the community.
49. The personal characteristics of a victim, such as race, colour, sex, sexuality, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other opinion, cultural beliefs or practices, property, birth or family status, ethnic or social origin, and disability should not be grounds for refusing assistance.
50. This does not however preclude States from making special provisions when specific characteristics or circumstances of the victims require.
51. A number of States differentiate in the assistance given to a victim on the basis of the type of offence. It would nevertheless be desirable that States consider the victims’ needs in priority.
52. The conduct of the victim before, during and after the criminal event should not constitute grounds for refusing assistance to him or her. It could however be taken into account when considering the scope of compensation.
53. Unrelated prior criminal conviction of the victim should not constitute grounds for refusing any provision of the Recommendation.
54. The identification, arrest, prosecution or conviction of the perpetrator of the criminal act should not be the condition for granting these services. It is understood that some measures, such as mediation for instance, clearly depends on the identification of the offender.
55. The scope of assistance to victims has been elaborated in para. 28-30 above.
56. States should ensure that the services mentioned in the Recommendation are available for as long as needed by the victim.
57. Where resources for assistance such as counselling are scarce, States may allocate those resources to victims of more serious crimes.
Types of assistance
- Immediate assistance should consist of a preliminary medical assessment and first aid if needed, as well as general information on assistance available to victims. The personnel in contact with victims should be aware of the risk of secondary victimisation and should have adequate training to prevent it.
- In the medium term, it has proved particularly useful to appoint a contact person or an “agent de liaison” between the victim, community services and investigation teams. The person should be well-trained in the available services and be able to understand and respond to the victim’s emotional needs. In addition, the protection of the victim’s privacy should be ensured.
- In the longer term, the range of services that are proposed in the short and medium term should remain available as long as needed. The victim may wish to be referred to specialised services or to victims’ self help groups where they can share their experiences with other victims. However, such initiatives should avoid unnecessarily prolonging the individual’s perception of being a “victim”.
Assistance to particularly vulnerable victims
58. States should ensure the provision of assistance to particular groups of victims, who can be considered vulnerable either by virtue of their personal characteristics (as in the case of children or people with physical or learning disabilities ) or of the type of crime they have been exposed to (e.g. domestic violence, sexual violence or organised crime). Such victims should benefit from special measures designed to suit their situation.
59. Particular attention should be paid to victims who do not understand the local language. Wherever possible, assistance should be provided in a language understood by the victim.
Assistance to victims of multiple victimisation
60. In cases of multiple victimisation, which may involve terrorism, some victims may benefit from group work or networking among victims of the same event.
61. States should also foresee provisions for large scale assistance in the immediate aftermath of such incident, as described under Chapter 15 below.
4. The role of public services
Criminal Justice Agencies
62. Research has shown that victims benefit from referrals by law enforcement agencies to victims support services. Some States interpret data protection legislation in a way which precludes the transmission of the victim’s personal data by referral. Research show however that victims are satisfied with the transmission of their personal data to victims support services. The practice in countries such as France, the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom has demonstrated the effectiveness of such referrals.
63. Victims should be explicitly told that they can refuse referrals to victim services or offers of assistance from victim support services.
64. Victim support services who receive referrals from the police should, in addition to offering their own services, provide victims with access to relevant specialist organisations dealing with victims of specific crimes (e.g. terrorism) or with specific victim groups (e.g. women, children).
65. Although many States provide information on the main decisions taken during criminal proceedings, fewer States take measures to give explanations for these decisions. Explanations should be provided in particular regarding decisions described in Art 6.5 of the Recommendation.
66. Whenever the victim is well aware of the decisions taken, he or she would more likely provide with additional information which could be relevant to the case.
67. In addition to the training of criminal justice agencies to recognise victims’ needs, as provided for in Chapter 12 of the Recommendation, it has been demonstrated that systems to monitor performance are more likely to encourage good practice.
68. Victims should receive legal advice on any aspect of their involvement in the criminal justice process, including on the possibility to becoming “partie civile” or to claim compensation.
Agencies in the community
69. The measures proposed in this Section relate to the wider aspects of the victim’s life in the community, which are not covered by the criminal justice system or by State compensation. The Recommendation recognises that many victims require, for example, medical services for both physical and psychological injuries, whether or not the crime has been reported to the police. Similarly, some victims of repeated burglaries or racist or other harassment will need help with home security or re-housing.
70. Although these provisions are available in most countries, for instance the relocation of a victim who is a witness of organised crime, the rights of other victims have rarely been recognised and would deserve higher consideration.
71. The policy statement adopted by the European Forum for Victim Services on “the social rights of victims of crime” (1998)19 provides examples of social measures which could be considered by States in fields such as access to health care services, income, home security, employment, education.20
Role of Embassies and Consulates
72. States should take the necessary steps to ensure that their embassies and consulates provide national victims with information on assistance available to them both in their host country and in their own countries. They should also, to the extent possible, provide national victims with immediate assistance by helping them to obtain such things as new identity documents, flight tickets and accommodation.
5. victim support services
73. In addition to assistance provided by criminal justice agencies and public services, States should provide or promote dedicated services for the support of victims. Such services can be of many different natures, although research21 has indicated the positive value of the establishment and promotion of independent non-governmental national victim support agencies.
74. While the majority of victim service organisations are formed within the voluntary sector, their success depends greatly upon the support of government. The 2001 EU Framework Decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings, requests Member States to “promote the involvement of victim support systems responsible for organising the initial reception of victims and for victim support and assistance, thereafter”. 22
75. Of the recommendations in the Phare Rule of Law Project, Module IV, one crucially asks that in every state, “named senior officials in the relevant ministries and criminal justice agencies be charged with express responsibility for the identification and promotion of policies and programmes for victims and witnesses”.23
76. Victim support services should adopt and abide by defined standards of services. As a minimum, the victims support services should respect the standards set forth in this Section of the Recommendation.
77. Nothing should prevent such services from going further in their definitions of standards of services. To this end, reference could be made to the Statement of victims’ rights to standards of services adopted by the European Forum for Victim Services in 199924.
78. The services should be available to the victims regardless of when the victim makes contact with victim support services. Particularly in cases of violence against minors, a long period of time can elapse before the victim takes the initiative to contact a victim support service.
79. Training, as described under Chapter 12, should enable the relevant personnel to be fully competent to deal with the problems of the victims they serve.
80. Specialised services, dealing for example with children, victims of rape or victims of terrorism are of great value. General services are encouraged to provide these services or to refer victims to other specialists. Such services should be easily accessible. The coordination of victim support services, as mentioned under §§ 86 – 90 and 149 below is important in this perspective.
81. The existence of these centres has proved to be of particular value to victims of sexual violence, trafficking and domestic violence. Such victims may be fearful of reporting to the police and might prefer to turn to such centres first. They should be able to obtain support and information whether or not they decide to report the crime to the authorities. These centres should be aware of the importance of securing evidence for possible criminal proceedings at a later date.
82. Some States consider that other forms of trauma, such as trauma resulting from terrorist acts or other forms of multiple victimisation, could also be addressed by such specialised centres.
National help lines
83. It is recommended that national help lines should be available in addition to other services listed in the Recommendation. Help lines should as a minimum provide general support and information and referrals to victim support agencies.
84. All personnel should be trained to provide basic support according to the needs expressed.
Coordination of victim services
85. It is important that States ensure the effective provision of support to victims. They should ensure that adequate services are available and that they work in a coordinated manner. In several countries, the setting up of national generalist organisations contributes to achieving such objective.
86. The co-ordination of dedicated victims services contributes to:
- voicing the needs and concerns of member associations and allowing for better access to and more influence on government policies and institutions;
- having an overview of the existing services available to victims, being in a position to assess them and identify their strengths and weaknesses;
- preparing and maintaining standards of good practice for victim services;
- co-ordinating assistance to victims
- co-ordinating the provision of training.
87. The recommendations issued by the Phare Working Group, propose that in all states “strenuous efforts should be made either to aid the development of an existing generalist organisation for victims or to create and aid the development of such an organisation where none exists”.25
88. The European Forum for Victim Services has also long advocated the establishment of effective national victim services. The forum is composed of 21 national organisations from 19 member States.
89. National victim assistance services have emerged in many European states26 and they have proved to be effective in lobbying for victim policy decisions on the part of governments. These organisations are consulted before important decisions are taken by government, and in some instances, the organisations themselves initiate the discussion.
90. This Section of the Recommendation corresponds closely to the Art 4 of the EU Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings27.
Provision of information
91. Victims should be informed as soon as possible of the services available when they report a crime to the police. They should also be informed of the possibility that victim support services will approach them.
92. If the victim contacts victim support services before reporting the crime, he or she should be informed how to report the offence to the police.
93. Procedures should be put in place to ensure that victims have easy access to information relevant to their case and necessary for the protection of their interests.
94. In particular for cases where the information is to be given to a victim by a statutory agency (e.g. police), a review mechanism should be set up to ensure that the procedures are well-implemented and adhered to.
95. In order to provide victims with additional information, many States have provided internet sites or leaflets and handbooks. The information provided may be adapted to fit the needs of various types of victims (children, victims of domestic violence, murder, or sexual assault etc.).
Content of the information
96. In case where the victim reports a crime, he or she should be informed of the procedures which will follow and of his or her role in these procedures. This should include, where appropriate, the possibility of exercising his or her rights in criminal proceedings, the possibility of obtaining protection, of being called as a witness, etc.
Information on criminal proceedings
97. Victims should be informed of the progress of the case. It may include information on a decision to charge, not to charge, to discontinue the prosecution, the dates of court hearings and decisions relating to the release of the offender from pre-trial detention In particular, information on decisions to release offenders should be provided to the victim in cases of violent crimes against the person or harassment and when the offender has been given a lengthy sentence (e.g. 12 months or more).
98. Sometimes victims do not want to receive information regarding the offender or the progress of criminal proceedings. Victims should therefore have the possibility to express their wish not to receive such information.
7. right to effective access to other remedies
99. Victims who suffer damages as a result of a crime should be entitled to effective access to justice in order to protect their rights. They should have access to justice to deal with such problems as child custody, property ownership, home security and claims for damages against the offender. Where relevant, exclusion orders or other injunctions should be made available.
100. Victims should also be entitled to claim compensation from the offender in the context of criminal proceedings except where, in certain cases, national law provides for compensation to be awarded in another manner. This is in line with the Council framework decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (Art 9).
101. Assistance should also be provided to victims to enforce any payment awarded. In some States, assistance is given by the State, to enforce a payment awarded by a criminal court. Research has demonstrated that this is the most effective way to ensure that payment is made. States should therefore consider what steps are needed to ensure payment.
8. State Compensation
102. Each State should adopt a compensation scheme for victims.
103. It is asserted that the obligation of the State to pay compensation is based on the principle of social solidarity by which the society, as a whole, accepts to share the burden produced by the crime.
104. The practice, in terms of victim compensation, varies widely among States. They are therefore encouraged to compare systems of compensation, including the provision of funding. Sources of funding for State compensation schemes can be public funds, confiscation of perpetrators’ assets, fines, a tax imposed on insurance contracts (as in the French practice) or other sources.
105. National compensation schemes should compensate all eligible victims of crimes committed within their national borders. The access to compensation should be granted irrespective of the victim’s nationality. Nationality could however be considered to some extent in the calculation of the amount to be compensated to victims.
Damages to be compensated
106. As an expression of social solidarity, the treatment and rehabilitation for physical and psychological injuries should be compensated.
107. The Recommendation invites States to consider, in addition to compensation for physical injuries, the compensation for pain and suffering. This is particularly relevant for numerous victims of sexual violence.
108. Physical injuries and loss of income can often be covered by private insurances and/or social security. The immaterial damage is often the main damage to be compensated. The inclusion of pain and suffering as a damage to be compensated is therefore crucial in cases where there is no material injury but considerable moral harm caused by the crime.
109. Compensation for special damages, such as loss of income, funeral expenses, loss of maintenance for dependants should be considered by States. Compensation for damages resulting from crimes against property may also be envisaged.
110. As to the level of compensation to be awarded, it is suggested that it should be the same for all victims, regardless of the situation and needs of the individual victim.
Victims of terrorism
111. As far as victims of terrorism are concerned, the Committee had an extensive discussion on the types of losses to be compensated as well as on the types of compensation to be awarded.
112. The report on “Victims of Terrorism – policies and legislation in Europe. An overview on victim related assistance and support”, elaborated by the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law28 as well as the “Report on the assistance to victims of terrorism”, adopted by the Committee in June 200529 provide useful suggestions and national examples.
113. As to the forms that compensation may take, due consideration should be given, in this regard, to Guideline VII of the Council of Europe Guidelines on the Protection of Victims of Terrorist Acts: “apart from the payment of pecuniary compensation, states are encouraged to consider, depending on the circumstances, taking other measures to mitigate the negative effects of the terrorist act suffered by the victims.” Such other forms of acknowledgment for victims could be considered in all cases of multiple victimisation30.
114. In some countries, compensation is offered to the community which is associated with the victim of a terrorist act. This community could use this compensation to build a hospital, school or memorial, or to set up an association or foundation.
115. A system of voluntary contributions to a trust fund for the benefit of an affected community can be considered.
116. The level of evidence required from victims of terrorism during any judicial procedure for compensation should be limited. The evidence that a terrorist act has been committed and that the claimant is a victim should be sufficient. Evidence of intention should not be necessary.
117. State compensation should be awarded to the extent that the damage is not covered by other sources such as the offender, insurance company or State-funded health and social provisions.
118. The application of this principle varies among States. In many States, for example, the compensation obtained from private insurance companies is taken into account when fixing the amount of compensation to be paid by the State. In some States, however, it is not and State compensation is received in addition to any indemnity received from the insurance company.
119. States should evaluate the extent of insurance cover provided by public or private insurance schemes for the various relevant categories of criminal victimisation. Where necessary, states should also seek ways to make insurance more accessible for families at greatest risk of victimisation and for those with limited means.
120. Research in the United Kingdom (1998 British Crime Survey) has shown that almost one in five United Kingdom households does not have home contents insurance. Low income households were the least likely to have insurance; about half of those living in accommodation rented from a public or social landlord were not insured. The survey also showed that those least likely to have insurance are most at risk of burglary.31 Further research has shown that the most common reason for not being insured is cost – it is relatively more expensive to insure on a low income. Those families with the lowest incomes living in neighbourhoods with high crime levels are three to four times less likely to have insurance than households with high incomes.
121. A valuable alternative for those who cannot afford conventional insurance cover is a “tenant’s contents insurance scheme”. These schemes, which can be operated by public or social landlords, generally involve the collection of insurance premiums with rent. The landlord is able to negotiate preferential rates with insurance companies and these savings can be passed on to tenants. Tenants receive cover that is affordable, flexible and meets their needs. Landlords are able to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their obligations to promote social inclusion. Research commissioned shows that schemes like this do operate successfully but much more needs to be done to set up and promote tenants contents insurance. 32
A. Protection of physical and psychological integrity
122. Special protective measures should be available to particularly vulnerable categories of victims, such as children, persons with learning disabilities, victims of domestic violence and other types of victims subject to repeat victimisation, including victims of trafficking in human beings, sexual violence, and victims of all forms of harassment. In such cases, police forces could inform the victims of the potential or actual risks of repeated crimes or reprisals and on ways to protect themselves. Adequate training and adequate resources should be provided to police forces for this purpose.
123. Particular protection should be available for victims who might be called as witnesses and are at risk of harassment, intimidation or reprisals. The Council of Europe Recommendations R (1997) 13 concerning intimidation of witnesses and the rights of the defence33 and R (2005) 0934 on the protection of witnesses and collaborators of justice provides useful guidance on this matter.
124. Protection can include legal and procedural measures. It could also include practical measures, such as alarm systems, closed circuit TV, video cameras and involving neighbours, the community, etc
125. Re-location should be made available as an option for particularly vulnerable victims or victims under threat. Where applicable, States are encouraged to enter into bi-lateral agreements to define the procedures for such re-location and the associated rights of the victim (residence, social rights, health care, education, etc).
B. Protection against repeat victimisation
126. Wherever the possibility of repeat victimisation exists, measures to help victims to avoid further victimisation should be regarded as an essential element of the assistance to victims.
127. Research in various countries in Europe has confirmed that once a crime has been committed, the possibility of a similar crime occurring against the same victim, or the same household, increases dramatically. For example, a household which has been burgled is four times more likely to be burgled again within six weeks of the first crime35. Statistics show, for instance in Germany, that 70% of all self-reported crimes have been committed against only 14% of the adult population36. In the case of violent crimes, 45% are committed against 17% of the population.
128. As an example of national practice, in some areas in England and Wales, Victim Support offers special projects to prevent burglary victims being targeted repeatedly. Repeat victims are identified using specialised referral software and assistance is given through the provision of appropriate crime prevention hardware and other advice.
129. Other groups with specific victimisation risks such as victims of racist and hate crimes have been offered special services by Victim Support in conjunction with local government agencies and the police. Special reporting centres have been set up based at doctor’s surgeries, council offices and Citizen Advice Bureaus, which enable repeat victims of racist and hate crime to report harassment or intimidation without having to increase their vulnerability by reporting directly to a police station.
C. Protection of privacy
130. The protection of the victim’s privacy should be ensured in particular when the crime receives a high level of media coverage.
131. There is a tendency in some countries for journalists to harass victims, their families, friends and neighbours for personal information. Pressure is also placed on agencies in contact with the victim to provide access to victims which would not otherwise be available. This behaviour should not be tolerated.
132. It is the responsibility of the State to protect the individual’s right to respect of private and family life, as set forth in Art 837 of the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental guarantees (ECHR).38 Due consideration should be given to the legal requirements to protect personal data of victims, as well as, in some cases, the image of victims.
133. When dealing with the issue of confidentiality and without prejudice to the situations covered under 71-72, the interests of the victim should always be the priority, including the protection of his or her personal data. The disclosure of the victim’s details can be granted only if the victim consents to it, or if there is a legal requirement or authorisation or an overriding ethical consideration to do so. In these circumstances three exceptions, clear rules should govern the disclosure procedures. Any disclosure should be respectful of the principle of proportionality. Within some limits, police forces can, for instance, disclose information on victims to other persons (e.g. a witness) for investigation purposes.
134. Complaints procedures should be published for dealing with alleged breaches to the adopted rules.39
135. Practitioners recognise in general that in situations where the health or security of anyone, including the victim, is at risk, this would constitute an overriding ethical consideration which would allow overruling the confidentiality principle.
12. Selection and training of personnel
136. Rules for selection of staff and training should apply to all personnel whose work involves contact with victims. It applies to professional and voluntary staff.
137. In many European States, victim services are supported by dedicated teams of volunteers.40 The employment of trained volunteers is a preferred option with many non-governmental organisations and is crucial to the success of victim services, as volunteers are representative of the community which they serve. In these organisations, trained professional staff offer training and supervision, as well as administrative, financial, and personal support to the volunteer workforce.
138. The development of a professional framework for the training, support and supervision of volunteers is crucial to the effectiveness of these organisations. Under Article 14 of the 2001 EU Framework decision, each member state must enable personnel involved with victims, “to receive suitable training with particular reference to the needs of the most vulnerable groups”.
139. Training of personnel should include, as a minimum, awareness of the negative effects of crimes, the range of victims' reactions, the risks of causing secondary victimisation and the skills and competences to assist victims.
140. The competences to be taught vary according to the type of service provided by the personnel concerned. To the extent necessary, the training will cover psychological aspects of victimisation, the types of assistance available and the ways to access them, information on legal and judicial provisions etc.
141. Training can be facilitated by national victim assistance services, which can coordinate the organisation of training both to public services (medical and social services, magistrates, police forces) and to associations and organisations providing assistance to victims.
Training of personnel in other services
142. Section underlines the necessity of providing training for personnel in police forces, the judiciary, Embassies and Consulates, as well as in health, housing, social security, education and employment services. Relevant personnel, i.e. persons in direct contact with victims, should be trained to recognise the effects of crime on victims, the risk of causing secondary victimisation and on the availability of services providing support or information.
143. There is a shared consensus that victim-offender mediation, where available, offers benefits as well as presenting potential risks for the victim. Such benefits and risks need to be carefully balanced when involving a victim in a mediation process. This balance is especially important in situations linked to intimate relationships, such as domestic violence, where the victim may not be in a position to express free consent to the mediation process.
144. Cases which are unsuitable for mediation, as a diversion from the criminal justice system, may still benefit from mediation at any stage following the sentence.
145. In designing national legislation and practice on victim-offender mediation, member states should give particular attention to issues such as the risk of secondary victimisation, the ability of parties to give free consent, issues of confidentiality, competence of mediators and the possibility to withdraw from the process at any stage.
146. Advice from an independent person on the possibilities offered by mediation is particularly important in order to provide the victim with objective information on the matters raised in the preceding paragraph. This could enable the victim to have a clearer idea on the benefits and potential risks offered by mediation.
147. States should take into account the relevant international and national norms and practices, notably:
- the Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(99)19 on mediation in criminal matters41,
- United Nations Basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters, ECOSOC Resolution 2002/12, 24 July 200242
- European Forum of Victim Services’ statement on the position of the victim within the process of mediation.43
14. Coordination and co-operation
148. The need for coordination is particularly important in countries where several victim services co-exist. If organisations with overlapping or similar services approach an individual victim without coordination, there is a higher risk of confusion and of secondary victimisation. The role of a national organisation in ensuring coordination and co-operation between services and institutions can be beneficial in this context.
15. International co-operation
Preparation of States’ responses
149. Particularly in situations of mass victimisation such as terrorist acts, States should ensure a well-prepared and co-ordinated response. The emergency response should be part of the general civil and public disaster response schemes which are in place in most European countries.
These emergency plans should:
- designate an agency to take the lead in co-ordinating the response,
- identify the key actors who will deal with the victims, both statutory and voluntary, such as the police, medical staff, support services,
- ensure a co-ordinated and immediate response.
The efficiency of such emergency plans presupposes:
- well-trained specialised services, such as public services, police, victim services and NGO’s.
- realistic drill exercises with the participation of key actors to be involved at the disaster scene, in particular in trans-frontier situations.
150. Measures taken by States in this area should meet the requirements of the Art 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No. 196), dealing with national prevention policies.
16. Raising public Awareness of the effects of crime
151. Although it is recommended that States have a primary role in public education, media also have an important role to pay in this context.
152. The media should be encouraged to play a positive role in raising public awareness on the negative effects of crimes on victims. The media should avoid transmitting to the public mere sensationalist or emotive images or facts. They should be aware of the risks of provoking an increase in fear as well as secondary victimisation.
153. The media are also encouraged to show examples of ways in which members of the public can contribute to the rehabilitation of victims.
154. States should contribute to or support the funding of victimological research. States could either provide direct funding, or give assistance to the raising of external research funds.
155. States can also provide practical support for example by giving the necessary permissions to conduct particular research projects or by allowing access to data, etc.
156. Comparative research should be promoted. Researchers from other countries should have equal access to research, research resources and research data.
157. Such comparative research could be conducted for example on:
- the effectiveness of the existing protection (procedural and practical) measures;
- training programmes for public services and for associations and organisations providing assistance to victims;
- compensation schemes for victims in general and victims of terrorism in particular;
- the organisation of immediate assistance to victims and notably: the planning, training and co-ordination of these personnel, the specific role of the police at the crime scene, appropriate methods of taking victims’ witness statements by investigators.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 967th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (14 June 2006) (see CM/Del/Dec(2006)967/10.3b).
Note 2 Document PC-CSC (2003)1, “The relevance today of Recommendation R(87)21 on the assistance to victims”, Helen Reeves, 16 January 2003.
Note 3 Notably: Recommendation nr R(85)4 on violence in the family, R(97)13 concerning intimidation of witnesses and the rights of the defence, R(99)19 concerning mediation in penal matters, R (2000)11 on action against trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation, R(2001)16 on the protection of children from sexual exploitation, R(2002)05 on protection of women against violence, R(2005)09 on the protection of witnesses and collaborators of justice.
Note 4 This includes the following UN Conventions: International Convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism (1999), UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on the Trafficking in Human Beings (General Assembly resolution 55/25, 8 January 2001); UN Convention against corruption (General Assembly, 21 November 2003, A/RES/58/4), as well as the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985), Implementation of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims and of Crime and Abuse of Power (Economic and Social Council resolution 1989/57), Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/21), Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice: Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-first Century (General Assembly resolution 55/59 - 2000), Guidelines on Justice Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime (adopted by Economic and Social Council resolution 2005/20 of 22 July 2005), Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations on international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law (adopted by UN General Assembly on 10 November 2005, document A/RES/60/147).
Note 5 In particular: the European Union Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings, the European Union Council Directive 2004/80/EC of 29 April 2004 relating to compensation for victims of crime.
Note 6 Resolution No. 1 on Combating Terrorism of the 25th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, Sofia, 9-10 October 2003, Resolution no 3 on the Fight against Terrorism of the 26th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, Helsinki, 7-8 April 2005.
Note 8 “Victims of Terrorism – policies and legislation in Europe. An overview on victim related assistance and support”, by Hans-Joerg Albrecht and Michael Kilchling, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, May 2005 (PC-S-AV (2005) 04).
Note 10 The country profiles are available on the web site of the CODEXTER: www.coe.int/gmt
Note 11 “Report on the assistance to victims of terrorism”, 21 June 2005, sent to the European Committee of Crime Problems (CDPC) and to the CODEXTER (Committee of Experts on Terrorism) – document PC-S-AV (2005) 07.
Note 12 “Article 13 – Protection, compensation and support for victims of terrorism: Each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to protect and support the victims of terrorism that has been committed within its own territory. These measures may include, through the appropriate national schemes and subject to domestic legislation, inter alia, financial assistance and compensation for victims of terrorism and their close family members. »
Note 13 More information on the European forum of victim services on its web site: http://www.euvictimservices.org/.
Note 14 For more complete elements on the matter, see H. Reeves, “the relevance today of Recommendation R(87)21”, doc PC-CSC (2003)01, 16 January 2003.
Note 15 This phenomenon is further elaborated under Chapter 10 B. of this document
Note 16 Doc 2001/220/JHA adopted on 15 March 2001 Art1: “(a) "victim" shall mean a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering or economic loss, directly caused by acts or omissions that are in violation of the criminal law of a Member State;”.
Note 17 Art 2: “The term "victim" also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimisation.”
Note 18 Extract from the statement of the European Forum for Victim Services on the Social Rights of Victims of Crime (1998).
Note 20 See also the publication made by the United Kingdom Home Office, “a new deal for victims and witnesses”, 2003, available at: http://old.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs2/vicwitstrat.pdf .
Note 21 Brienen, M.E.I., Hoegen, E.H. Victims of Crime in 22 European Criminal Justice Systems: The Implementation of Recommendation (85) 11 of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure, Niemegen, Netherlands: WLP, 2000.
Note 22 Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims of crime in criminal proceedings (2001/220/JHA) OJ, L82, 22 March 2001, Article 13.
Note 23 Phare Horizontal Programme on Justice and Home Affairs, Reinforcement of the Rule of Law: Final report on the first part of the project. European Commission: August 2002. p. 57
Note 25 Phare Horizontal Programme on Justice and Home Affairs, Reinforcement of the Rule of Law: Final report on the first part of the project. European Commission: August 2002. p. 57
Note 26 Brienen, M.E.I., Hoegen, E.H. Victims of Crime in 22 European Criminal Justice Systems: The Implementation of Recommendation (85) 11 of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure, Niemegen, Netherlands: WLP, 2000, p. 45.
Note 28 “Victims of Terrorism – policies and legislation in Europe. An overview on victim related assistance and support”, by by Hans-Joerg Albrecht and Michael Kilchling, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, May 2005 (PC-S-AV (2005) 04)
Note 29 “Report on the assistance to victims of terrorism”, adopted by the PC-S-AV, 21 June 2005, transmitted to the European Committee of Crime Problems (CDPC) and to the CODEXTER (Committee of Experts on Terrorism); document PC-S-AV (2005) 07.
Note 30 See the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims and Abuse of Power, 1985
Note 31 Budd, T. (1999) Burglary of domestic dwellings: findings from the British Crime Survey. (Home Office statistical bulletin; 4/99) London Home Office.
Note 32 Housing Corporation (2001) Insurance for all: a good practice guide. London: the Housing Corporation, 2001.
Note 34 Available on :
Note 35 Graham Farrell, Multiple victimisation: Its Extent and Significance in: International Review of Victimology 2 (1992)
Note 36 Schneider, Hans Joachim, Victimological Developments in the World during the Last Three Decades: Proceedings of the Montreal Symposium 2000, World Society of Victimology.
Note 37 Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life: (1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. (2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Note 39 Ibidem
Note 40 Brienen, M.E.I., Hoegen, E.H. (2000) Victims of Crime in 22 European Criminal Justice Systems: The Implementation of Recommendation (85) 11 of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure, Niemegen, Netherlands: WLP, 2000.