Following the evaluation of the implementation of the Victim’s Rights Directive initiated by the European Commission, in July 2023 the Commission adopted proposed amendments to the Victim’s Rights Directive (more information about the proposal here), and opened a call for feedback on the proposal. The proposed amendments and a summary of all feedback submitted will be discussed in the EU Parliament and in the European Council for its approval.
During the initial evaluation process, the EFRJ contributed with the evaluation of the restorative justice provisions of the Victim’s Rights Directive; and in September 2023, the EFRJ submitted its feedback to the proposed amendments.
While the revision is a key step forward, and the Commission’s proposal includes important amendments, it doesn’t introduce more systematic restorative justice framework. Our feedback recommends to strengthen restorative justice provisions in the new Victim’s Rights Directive. Many members of the EFRJ took our invitation to let their voice heard by submitting their feedback. Their comments support our position and contribute to the EFRJ’s policy work.
Our feedback builds on on the EFRJ’s previous feedback (read more about it here) and it was made possible thanks to the contributions of EFRJ members and other stakeholders.
In particular, the EFRJ worked together with Victim Support Europe to create more synergies and a stronger cooperation between restorative justice and victim support services. As a result Victim Support Europe in its recent publication, which presents their vision for a revised Victims’ Rights Directive (the "Victims of Crime Model Provisions Paper") supports our position by calling the EU to ensure a more effective and equal access to high-quality restorative justice services for all victims of crime through the revision of the Victim’s Rights Directive.
The EFRJ will continue to advocate to ensure effective and equal access to high-quality restorative justice services for all victims of crime. We believe that the revision of the Victims Rights’ Directive presents a unique opportunity for the European Union to develop the restorative justice provisions and ensure effective and equal access to high-quality restorative justice services for all victims of crime who freely want to access such services.
The revision of the Victims Rights’ Directive should be in line with the significant developments occurred in the last decade in the field of restorative justice and victims’ rights.
There is clear evidence that restorative justice services play a critical role in promoting recovery, reparation, empowerment and justice for a broad spectrum of victims. Restorative justice is inherently victim-centric and child-friendly, and it aligns with the objectives of the VRD and with the European Commission's proposed amendments.
Compelling evidence further indicates that restorative justice effectively addresses all five major categories of victims' needs recognised by the European Commission. These encompass: respectful treatment and recognition as victims, protection from retaliation and further harm, fostering lasting psychological well-being, ensuring access to justice and participation, and providing compensation and restoration.
We urge the European Union to seize the opportunity to revise the Victim’s Rights Directive to ensure effective and equal access to high-quality restorative justice services for all victims of crime who freely want to access such services.
In many Member States, restorative justice services are inaccessible to many victims. Among the main barriers are exclusion criteria based on offence type or offender characteristics, victims’ lack of information about restorative justice, and limited knowledge about restorative justice among professionals that come into contact with victims and who consequently refer few cases to RJ services.
To address these issues, we present two distinct proposals to amend the VRD and increase the accessibility of restorative justice.
Establishing a right of access to restorative justice services (option A, the strongest option); or,
(as a less strong yet viable alternative to option A) defining restorative justice as a generally available service for all victims as per the CoE Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)8 on restorative justice (option B);
Regardless of whether Proposal 1, options A or B, is supported , we recommend both:
Enhancing the European Commission's proposed revisions by incorporating restorative justice into relevant EC amendments (First Component of Proposal 2), and by amending certain existing articles on restorative justice (Second Component of Proposal 2).
Our arguments are evidence-based and supported by relevant international (legal and policy) documents from the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. Hereinafter, and in Annex 1 we present concrete (drafting) suggestions and in Annex 2 we present detailed references to research findings and to international documents on restorative justice.