Article 32 – Individual Assessment for Support Needs within Criminal Proceedings

Article 32 – Individual Assessment for Support Needs within Criminal Proceedings

1) Member States shall ensure that victims receive a timely and individual assessment, to identify specific support needs during criminal proceedings that may be addressed within the scope of the activities of competent authorities.

2) The support needs assessment shall not be used to determine the need to refer victims to generic and specialist support services and shall not replace the support needs assessment established under Article 9(2)(f).

COMMENTARY – Article 32

The Commission has recognised several problems with the implementation of the needs assessment. Specifically, Member States have largely failed to ensure that all victims receive a thorough and meaningful assessment designed to identify and monitor risks throughout criminal proceedings and to promptly put in place necessary protection measures for those who need them.

The Commission has made a series of proposals, which VSE generally supports, to address these issues. Importantly, the Commission has laid out detailed rules on the application of the assessment, to ensure it is carried out on a regular basis and to take into account a minimum set of factors.

Nevertheless, by combining the support and protection needs assessments, VSE has strong concerns that many victims are at an elevated risk of being denied access to support services.

VSE appreciates the Commission’s recognition of the importance of a support needs assessment and agrees with the general concept. However, as currently drafted, it appears that or risks that police authorities will be relied on to carry out a single support needs assessment to determine whether victims are referred to external support services.

Evidence clearly shows that organisations specialised in supporting victims, rather than police authorities, should carry out wide-ranging support assessments, whilst a mandatory, direct referral of victims from competent authorities to such services is an essential best practice and maximises victims’ access to support. Requiring police authorities to carry out such assessments not only risks overburdening them but, in many cases, will result in inadequate assessments being carried out by unqualified personnel.

VSE believes it is essential that all victims are referred to independent support services, whose trained staff will carry out a support needs assessment. Nevertheless, VSE also recognises that other competent authorities play an important role in assisting victims within the context of criminal proceedings and the scope of their activities, e.g. provision of information by a prosecutor to the victim is a form of support. To ensure such authorities have a clear understanding of how they may best support victims, a needs assessment for this purpose is proposed. Whenever an authority identifies support needs they cannot address, they should co-ordinate with generic and specialist support services.