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Law 4/2015 on the rights, support and protection of crime victims

Directive 2012/29/UE of the European Union is a very ambitious law project, with the aim of setting a minimum standard of rights for the victims of crimes in the European Union. The diversity of legal systems in the EU makes this project very challenging.

The deadline for member states incorporating this directive into their law, is set for the 16 November 2015. Spain will comply to the directive with law 4/2015 of the 27 April that will come into force on the 28 October 2015.

An individualised treatment of all victims

The objective of the law is to provide an individualised treatment to all victims of crime both from the legal and social point of view; that is, the recognition, protection and victim support is not limited to the material aspects and the financial compensation, but also extends to its moral dimension.

Common basic extra-procedural rights of all victims

The law underlines the basic rights of the victims, i.e.

  • Right of victims to understand and to be understood: communication with victims, oral or written, shall be in clear, simple and accessible language.
  • Inform the victim on their rights like: support measures available; how to pursue the right to denounce; way and conditions of protection; legal advice, legal expenses and compensation.
  • Court will notify victims of anything of special interest to them by email or post, and victims may express their wish not to be informed about these issues.
  • Right of victims to obtain a certified copy of the complaint, with free language assistance and translation. Right to translation and interpretation at any meeting with police or judicial forces.
  • Minor children who are in an environment of gender violence are entitled to the same measures of assistance and protection as their mothers.
  • In cases of major disasters, lawyers may not contact the victims to offer their professional services until 45 days after the fact. This prohibition shall be void in the event that the delivery of these professional services is expressly requested by the victim.
  • Right of assistance and support services provided by public administrations, as well as providing the Offices of Victim Assistance

Involvement of victims in criminal proceedings

The victim will have right to:

  • Pursue criminal and civil actions
  • Communication and review of the termination of the investigation
  • Victim’s right to be informed at all times in ongoing criminal proceedings, even if not represented in the case. The court is obliged to inform the trial date, notify the judgment or dismissal where appropriate. Victims can provide feedback when the judge has to rule on prison benefits, probation or parole. Furthermore, the victims can appeal against decisions in terrorist offenses, homicide, abortion, injuries, torture, human trafficking, robbery, kidnapping, against moral integrity or sexual abuse (when penalties imposed are exceeding 5 years).
  • Restorative justice services for material and moral compensation for damage resulting from the offence
  • Requests for free legal aid to the authority
  • Right of the victim to obtain the immediate return of his property except in exceptional cases in which the property in question, temporarily or permanently, were to remain under the custody of the authorities to ensure the proper development of judicial proceedings.
  • The use of criminal mediation is also recognized for the victim to feel satisfied, except in gender violence where it is prohibited
  • The identity and privacy of the victim is protected without having to be considered be witnesses protected.

Protection of victims

  • Any contact between victim and offender will be avoided where possible furthermore protecting the privacy of all victims and their families and, in particular, prevent the dissemination of any information that may facilitate the identification of child victims or victims with disabilities in need of special protection.
  • Statements will be reduced as much as possible, the same person and of the same sex will be the preferred interface with the victim.
  • During the trial unnecessary questions and visual contact with the offender will be avoided.
  • Ensure the victim’s right to be accompanied, not only by the legal representative, but also by another person of their choice, unless there is a justified reason.
  • Individual assessment of victims in order to identify their special protection needs, taking into account the personality of the person, the crime and its circumstances, to the extent of the damage and its severity or vulnerability of the victim.