Utrecht, the Netherlands, 15-8-2014 — /EuropaWire/ — On 13 May a seminar was organized by the Criminal Justice Platform Europe. The event was hosted by the Ministry of Justice of Catalonia at the Centre for Legal Studies in Barcelona. At the seminar the Criminal Justice Platform introduced its focus for the coming years. Victims and the implementation of the Directive will be at the core of the work and as the main issues of the Directive to which the Platform can contribute the following topics were selected during a workshop in 2013: training, communication, cultural change and restorative justice.
The seminar aimed at analysing the impact of supporting victims in daily (judicial) practice and at showing good practices in the implementation of the Directive. The EU Directive on the protection of victims was adopted on 25 October 2012 and has to be transposed into national legislation by the end of 2015. The Directive aims at putting the victim’s issues on top of the minds and agendas of the different professionals that are dealing with victims in a direct and indirect way in their daily professional life. At the seminar European experts representing probation service, prison administration and restorative justice presented opinions and developments in the implementation of the EU Directive for an audience of academics, lawyers, police and policy makers.
Katrien Lauwaert (EFRJ, University Leuven, Belgium): “The Directive appoints the position of Restorative Justice and recognizes the benefits of Restorative Justice for victims. The Directive gives a clear definition of the term Restorative Justice. It is important to inform victims about the availability of Restorative Justice from the first contact with professionals. It is essential to take the interest of the victim and the offender into account in a balanced way instead of focusing only on the interest of the victim. Restorative Justice is still not widely available in Europe for victims and in all stages of the criminal proceedings. These issues are not sufficiently covered by the Directive. European countries have their own way and pace of implementation of the Directive. It has been noted that there is some resistance with the judiciary in applying Restorative Justice caused by a lack of knowledge. Restorative Justice should become a part of the curriculum for all legal professions.“
Jan Bouman (EuroPris, Dutch Custodial Institution Agency, Netherlands): “Since the EU Framework Decision on Victims in 2010, the Dutch Prison Administration has given more attention to victims. A victim information policy was developed by the Prison Administration in cooperation with the Public Prosecution Office. In 2012 an audit was held amongst prison staff to check the actual attention that was given to victims in the prisons and head office. The audit showed that staff actually working in prisons was more receptive to victims issues than prison managers. The audit also demonstrated that direct contact with victim support organizations helps to draw attention to victims and achieve a cultural change within the prison service. The outcomes of the audit helped to start the implementation of a more victim-oriented approach. A centralized ‘service desk for victims’ is under development and should be functioning by 2016. Training programmes are being updated.”
Gerry McNally (CEP, Irish Probation Service, Ireland): “The European Probation Rules [Council of Europe, 2010] contain rules that relate directly to victims and Restorative Justice. The European Probation Rules have been a guidance for probation and this had a direct impact on probation practice. The 2012 Directive forces the Probation services in Europe to be proactive in responding to the needs of victims. This is reflected by the fact that in some countries the Probation Services are actually Probation and Mediation Services (Ireland, Czech Republic). Some examples of the work of the Irish Probation Service in the field of victims are:
- a victims services coordinator provides guidance to probation staff and engages in one to one contacts with victims.
- special ‘victim impact reports’ will be prepared when requested by the courts;
- restorative justice family conferences are organised in case of juvenile offenders;
The challenge within the field of probation is to embed the provisions of the Victims Directive in daily practice at each level of the organizations.”
The partners of the Criminal Justice Platform Europe indicated by organising this seminar that a change of culture regarding the position of victims has to be achieved in the whole judicial chain and not just with one actor.