Article 2 – Definitions

Article 2 – Definitions

1) For the purposes of this Directive the following definitions shall apply:

a) ‘victim’ means:

i) a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence been subjected to a criminal offence;
ii) family members of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence and who have suffered harm as a result of that person’s death;

b) ‘family members’ means the spouse, the person who is in a committed intimate relationship with the victim, in a joint household andon a stable and continuous basis, the relatives in direct line, the siblings and the dependents of the victim;

c) ‘child’ means any person below 18 years of age;

d) ‘restorative justice’ means any process whereby which enables the victim those harmed by crime and the offender those responsible for that harm (the parties), if they freely consent, to participate actively in a dialogue on in the resolution of matters arising from the criminal offence through the help of a trained and impartial third party (the facilitator);

e) ‘generic support services’ means organisations specialised in supporting victims of crime and which offer support to all victims of crime. These services may include specialisations for specific groups or offer specific types of services.

f) ‘specialist support services’ means services offered only to particular groups of victims, based on type of crime or personal characteristics.

COMMENTARY – Article 2

By its referral to ‘harm’, the definition of a ‘victim’, as used in EU legislation, differs from other international instruments[1], which define victims as persons subjected to behaviour which is criminalised under their provisions. There is currently no evidence supporting the notion that victims should have to suffer harm to be defined as such. Conversely, as proposed by the EU FRA, when a victim is deemed to ‘own’ rights that have been violated, the victim is entitled to see that justice is served and becomes an active party in proceedings. Removing the term ‘harm’ from the definition supports a stronger recognition of victims within the justice system[2] – an approach that is in line with Recital 9 of the 2012 Directive[3].

In defining family members,VSE suggests the removal of any limitationrequiring the term ‘joint household’ to qualify stable, committed intimate relationships. With the freedom of movement granted to EU citizens, a high number of committed couples live in different Member States, whether for a limited or prolonged period. The requirement for a ‘joint household’ no longer addresses the reality of modern relationships.

The updated definition of restorative justice (RJ), as suggested by the European Forum for Restorative Justice[4], derives from the Council of Europe‘s recommendation on Restorative Justice[5]. It aims to better reflect the scope of RJ, which focuses on the harm caused by a crime and includes, as relevant parties, those members of the community (relatives, friends, neighbours, etc) affected by the crime. The VSE proposal also introduces definitions on generic support services and specialist support services. Whilst the terms specialist and generic are regularly used, no European definition currently exists which can create confusion, in particular where other legislative texts may refer to services such as social welfare services as being general support services. These services should not be considered as (generic) support services since they do not specialise in supporting victims, even though they may incorporate support to victims. The differentiation is important since within a national support framework, it is necessary to have a combination of services specialised in supporting all victims (Generic support services), services specialised in supporting specific groups of victims (Specialist Support Services) and other organisations which work with victims, whose tasks are not primarily the support of victims but who have a role in assisting them.

[1] Such as Council of Europe conventions on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention, available at or on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the Lanzarote Convention, available at

[2] Justice for victims of violent crime, Part I: Victims’ rights as standards of criminal justice, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU FRA), 2019, available at:

[3] Recital 9 recognises that: ‘Crime is a wrong against society as well as a violation of the individual rights of victims. As such, victims of crime should be recognised and treated in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner […].’, see DIRECTIVE 2012/29/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, available at:

[4] European Forum for Restorative Justice:

[5] Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)8 of the Committee of Ministers to member States concerning restorative justice in criminal matters, Council of Europe, 2018, available at: