Article 28 – Right to avoid contact between victim and offender

Article 28 – Right to avoid contact between victim and offender

1) Member States shall establish the necessary conditions tools, mechanisms, and environments to enable avoidance of contact between victims and their family members, where necessary, and the offender within premises where criminal proceedings are conducted unless the criminal proceedings requires such contact. This includes the availability of mobile screens in courtrooms.

2) Member States shall ensure that new court premises have separate waiting areas for victims and shall establish processes for the creation of separate waiting areas in existing court premises. Member States shall establish a plan for the creation of separate waiting areas or for the designation of rooms that can be used of this purpose in existing court premises.

COMMENTARY – Article 3

The European Commission did not make changes to this article in its proposal for a revised VRD.

Whilst many States have in place appropriate measures to enable the separation of victims and suspects, there has been limited progress in changing all Member State’s police and court environments; as a result, victims are not often offered the use of or given access to such facilities. The VOCIARE report indicates that in only 19% of cases are victims always granted measures to avoid visual contact with the perpetrator. Equally, victim-friendly rooms are often either not available in national courts or are limited to certain victim groups (most often to children).[1] The Commission’s evaluation report of the VRD reveals a widespread absence of these separate physical areas, especially in newer court buildings.

The proposal does not change the protection obligations themselves, but rather establishes concrete actions to be taken by Member States to move towards a more protective environment. The creation, in just a few years, of separate areas within court buildings and other locations would require significant investment and would potentially impact proceedings, is likely to be unfeasible. States should have to demonstrate, on an ongoing basis, what actions they are taking and what planning is in place to improve protection measures; however, some flexible approaches – such as using existing rooms for multiple purposes – can be easily and cheaply adopted. The proposal therefore achieves a balanced approach whilst creating an opportunity to monitor progress.

A key aspect of the VSE proposal is the introduction of mobile screens in courtrooms. Recognising that facing the offender is a well-documented cause of secondary victimisation, these screens offer a readily attainable and cost-effective solution. They can be used when victims and offenders must be in the same courtroom, while the victim presents their testimony, and can effectively block the victim’s view of the offender at this sensitive time.

[1] European Commission Staff Working Document, Evaluation of 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, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA, SWD (2022) 180 final,