Article 4 – Right to receive information from the first contact with a competent authority

Article 4 – Right to receive information from the first contact with a competent authority

1) Member States shall ensure that victims are provided offered the following information, without unnecessary delay, from their first contact with a competent authority in order to enable them to access the rights set out in this Directive:

a) the type of support they can obtain and from whom, including, where relevant, basic information about access to medical support, any specialist support, including psychological support, and alternative accommodation;
b) the procedures for making complaints with regard to a criminal offence and their role in connection with such procedures;
c) how and under what conditions they can obtain protection, including protection measures;
d) how and under what conditions they can access legal advice, legal aid and any other sort of advice;
e) how and under what conditions they can access offender and State compensation;
f) how and under what conditions they are entitled to interpretation and translation;
g) if they are resident in a Member State other than that where the criminal offence was committed, any special measures, procedures or arrangements, which are available to protect their interests in the Member State where the first contact with the competent authority is made;
h) the available procedures for making complaints where their rights are not respected by the competent authority operating within the context of criminal proceedings;
i) the contact details for communications about their case;
j) the available restorative justice services;
k) how and under what conditions expenses incurred as a result of their participation in the criminal proceedings can be reimbursed.

2) The extent or detail of information referred to in paragraph 1 may vary depending on the specific needs and personal circumstances of the victim and the type or nature of the crime. Additional details may also be provided at later stages depending on the needs of the victim and the relevance, at each stage of proceedings, of such details.

COMMENTARY – Article 4

This article was not amended in the European Commission’s proposal. However, recent research indicates that many problems persist in the provision of information to victims at first contact; these are detailed in VSE’s policy paper ‘Transforming how we communicate with victims’[1]. Some of these challenges are addressed by VSE amendments to other information-related articles (e.g. right to understand and be understood, coordination system for communication with victims).

In this article, the key change is the obligation to provide information rather than merely to offer information. By obliging information to be provided, victims should receive sufficient guidance to make certain decisions on their own. This obligation enables the implementation of the right to be monitored and legal remedies against failures to be enacted.

Reports from the EU FRA[2] show that confusion remains over the provision of information on compensation at the first contact with victims. Reasons for this confusion include not knowing who/which authority should provide the information on compensation; specifically, information on State compensation, which is often not handed out at all. VSE recommends the article should explicitly mention both offender and State compensation, and victims should be told about their right to compensation on their first contact with competent authorities.

[1] Transforming how we communicate with victims, Victim Support Europe, 2023, available at:

[2] Proceedings that do justice, Justice for victims of violent crimes, Part II, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2019, available at:

Key Problems

1) Complex and technical language

Information is often too hard to understand due to the technical and legal nature of the language used. Language should be clear yet not too technical, both in written materials and face to face communication with authorities. 

2) Adequacy when informing victims and use of diverse means of communication

  • Providing information through a wide range of means (e.g. orally, written, through videos) is crucial to ensure that all victims understand correctly the information provided to them. In a lot of cases (41,5%), information remains provided using written materials (leaflets, brochures) with little to no other means available, which might be more suitable to guarantee that the victim comprehends the information. 
  • Information is often very lengthy, in an attempt from authorities to provide all relevant information to victims. This amount, type and level of information, might however not always be adequate at first contact, where victims are often in distress and not able to absorb and properly process all information.

3) Incomplete information

  • The information provided on first contact remains incomplete and inconsistent, with the amount, content, quality and length of information varying from one Member State to another and even from one authority to another.  
  • In some Member States, the absence of procedures and guidance on how to give information to victims results in little to no information being provided.  
  • Most of the time, law enforcement authorities fail to inform victims about existing and available support services and how to contact them.  
  • Victims are still insufficiently informed about the existence of national compensation schemes and how to access them. For example, a recent EU FRA study found that the lack of information given to victims about State compensation and the possibility to apply for it was the main reason for victims not submitting an application. Problems appear driven by practitioners’ limited knowledge about it, in particular for State and cross-border compensation schemes, which are more rarely used than offender compensation. 

Data on the Implementation of Right

Complexity of information materials

In at least 4 Member States the information provided in written form is a reproduction of the legal instruments establishing the rights of Victims (BG, PT, RO and SK). This is a clear impediment for most victims, since they are not trained in legal matters and have no familiarity with reading legislation, therefore not being able to understand clearly their rights/ role in the proceeding.  

Means for providing information  

Professionals highlight that, across Member States 41,5% of information is often provided via leaflets, brochures or similar.  

Professionals agree that in 20,6% of cases information is never provided via internet.  

Professionals agree that in 35,5% of cases information is always provided orally.  

Professionals highlight that 25,6% of information is never provided by video.

 (Source: VOCIARE Synthesis Report, Victim Support Europe, 2019

Percentages of victims receiving complete information at first contact  

Only 20% of victims receive full information. 

38% of victims receive most information.  

26% of victims receive partial information.  

14% of victims receive little information.  

2% of victims receive no information. 

(Source: VOCIARE Synthesis Report, Victim Support Europe, 2019

Swedish example:

A survey conducted in Sweden in 2019 revealed that only 55% of victims surveyed claimed to have received information on their rights when reporting a crime, while 27% said that they have never received this information and the remaining 18% indicated they received the information at a later point in time.

(Source: Transforming how we communicate with victims, Victim Support Europe, 2022)  

Best Practices of Member States

Ireland: information leaflet sent to victims  

A victim information leaflet is sent to victims by post after they present a criminal complaint. Although the leaflet is currently incomplete in light with Article 4 of the Directive, it is being revised.  

The revision will address the information deficiencies in the current leaflet and once finished, the new version of the leaflet will undergo the Irish National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) Plain English process and it will also be translated into 37 different languages.  

Belgium: government information website

The Belgian government has built up a website for all victims with information on how to cope, what to do and who can help victims. This is done in a general way, but crime specific elements are being added.  

The website ( is hosted by the government. Its driving force is a redactional team with people from the welfare administration (including their communication specialists) and representation from the work field (justice houses and CAW (NGO)).  

Police and Victim Care workers are already almost systematically referring to the website. The website is accessible for the general public, so the access does not depend on your status as victim. 

Greece: training of practitioners 

POTASIS training curriculum for police officers: three pilot 20 hours long trainings for police officers carried out under the EU Funded POTASIS project.  

The training aimed at informing police officers on the Victims’ Directive and the national Law, as well as provide capacity building for strengthening the police officers’ communication skills for when they come in contact with victims of crime. More specifically, the training curriculum provided police officers with general knowledge on the impact of victimization, the special needs of child victims and gender-based violence victims, as well as capacity building on communication skills in order to contact victims in a respectful and non-discriminatory manner, taking into account a personalised approach in meeting the victims’ special needs and making appropriate referral to victim support services. 

Lithuania: information for vulnerable victims  

As a good practice to remedy the lack of clear and understandable information about the victims’ rights is the project “Improved Response to Victims of Crime” led by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) and the Lithuanian Police School.  

In the framework of the project, the HRMI developed an informational website, which provides all the necessary information to victims of crime. The content of the website is tailored to minors, persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with visual impairments. Also, multilingual leaflets for victims providing information about the procedural rights in a clear and accessible manner, including in Braille and the easy-read format, are being developed and will be distributed to the police stations across the country. 

Portugal: Right to information

In what concerns victims’ right to information, project Infovictims is a particular good practice. Its results have been acknowledged by several professionals of the criminal justice system, by victims themselves and by the European Commission as a very important tool in the empowerment of victims by providing them with accessible, simple and complete information regarding their rights and the criminal proceedings. The project resulted in a website and phone app, currently available and adapted to 6 different languages and country realities, which are highly accessible to victims and are also used by police officers and prosecutors when providing information to victims as mandated by Article 4 of the Victims’ Directive.