Article 24 – Right to return of property

Article 24 – Right to return of property

1) Member States shall ensure that, following a decision by a competent authority, recoverable property which is seized in the course of criminal proceedings is returned to victims without delay, unless required for the purposes of criminal proceedings.

2) Member States shall ensure that the ownership of any property seized in the course of the criminal proceedings is properly documented and stored for the duration of the seizure, to facilitate its return.

3) The conditions or procedural rules under which such property is returned to the victims shall be determined by national law.

COMMENTARY – Article 24

The European Commission did not make changes to this article in its proposal.

Any recoverable property or personal assets seized during criminal proceedings should be returned without delay, once such property is no longer required for the purposes of the proceedings. In practice, returning personal effects can be challenging if ownership must be established. Furthermore, officials often lack empathy when returning victims’ property. Procedures relating to the reclamation of property tend to incur unreasonable deadlines and systematic delays. The VSE proposal aims to facilitate the process of reclaiming personal effects and property by requiring the use of proper documentation and secure storage of these items. Besides making changes to the article, we also recommend that clear protocols for returning seized personal effects are established at the national level. Such protocols should foresee transparent communication with victims and victims’ families concerning the reasons as to why property is withheld. This communication will help manage victims’ expectations, which may lead to a reduction in further harm. If personal effects are retained by the authorities, protocols should ensure that justice officials conduct regular reviews on their retention as evidence.