In the past, the victim of a crime played a very minor role in criminal proceedings – the victim’s only relevance was to provide evidence. This has changed markedly during the last decades. The change was driven in large part by the lobbying of many victim support organisations, but also by the research (victimology), which investigated demands and needs of crime victims. Today, victim rights are considered human rights. Many international and European organisations are taking care of the implementation of victim rights.
The European Union has enacted Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
The Directive, which applies to all 28 EU Member States , provides for the following:
- Victims must be treated with respect.
- Victims must be informed of their rights so that they understand them and are informed about their case. All Member States must ensure that victims have cost-free access to victim support services.
- Victims must be allowed to participate in the proceedings if they wish so. If they choose to get involved, they have to be assisted. Especially vulnerable victims such as children, victims of sexual assault or persons with disabilities must be appropriately protected.
- Victims also have the right to be protected during the police investigation and the trial.
Victims of crime have special rights during the criminal proceedings. These rights are mostly contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure.