Alyn Hails Landmark EU Deal On Victim Support

Victims of crime in any European state will have new rights to advice and support in their own language, based largely on the Scottish victim support model, thanks to a new EU Directive approved in Strasbourg today.  

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith, himself a lawyer by profession and the only Scot to speak in the debate, has hailed the vote as a landmark in the development  of victim support across the EU and praised the work of Victim Support Scotland which was instrumental in bringing it to fruition.

Alyn has also published a guide to the Directive, and is organising a conference in Brussels in November to work out a plan for the best implementation of the new rights across the EU.

The Directive was approved 611 votes to 9 votes with 13 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, Alyn said:

"We're often asked as MEPs what the EU has delivered for our citizens, well, here is a great big pile of delivery!

"As more and more of our citizens view Europe as not foreign but our backyard, taking up rights to live, work, study, retire or travel across the EU, then it is a sad fact that more will be victims of crime when in another country.  Being a victim of crime is traumatic enough, but when, in addition to that, the victim has to work with a different police and legal system, a different language and medical system then the stress is compounded further.

"Anyone can become a victim, and this Directive brings in the minimum standards of treatment anyone can expect, in any country.  Without the EU as a framework to negotiate such a co-operation it would simply not have happened. The alternative would be for the Scottish government to negotiate 27 different individual treaties, a massive task.

"This Directive has Scottish fingerprints all over it, and draws quite explicitly from Scottish best practice. Victim Support Scotland was instrumental in making it happen, and I was proud to organise a lobbying meeting in Brussels in spring which heard heart-breaking first hand testimony from numerous people about how the system has failed them.

"But, as I said in the debate, passing legislation is, comparatively, easy. It is now crucial that we keep the pressure on some reluctant Member States to make sure the rights are made real. I was proud to report that the Scottish Government has already put down legislation in the Victims and Witnesses Bill which will far exceed the minimum standards of the Directive, and the meeting in November will be vital in scoping out what else needs to be done.

"Crucially, we must properly fund a network of victim support organisations to share best practice and advise governments on how best to reform their systems. There is no shortage of expertise in Scotland to help in this task and no lack of enthusiasm either.

"We did a good bit of work today."

Speaking in the debate (video footage of which is available at Alyn said:

Alyn Smith (SNP). – Mr President, I will be no exception in congratulating our rapporteurs, and indeed our Commissioner, very warmly. As a lawyer myself I see much in this package to admire, and much that is not only necessary but very urgent.

That is why we need to move on to what comes next. While we congratulate ourselves and recognise the progress that has been made and celebrate the fact that we have got this far, the 2001 package promised much but raised – and dashed – the hopes of those of us who wanted to see a more coherent system. It is crucial that we learn the lessons of that to make sure that they are not repeated.  

I am happy to report that the Scottish Government is a very willing partner in this process. The Scottish Government this week launched a Victims and Witness Bill to the Scottish Parliament which will exceed the terms of this directive by a significant margin. We are keen on this legislation. We will work with you.

Scots law already is very distinctive within our European tradition. But what about the other Member States? We have a three-year limit for transposition. Will the Commissioner tonight undertake to open immediate infraction proceedings if a Member State drags its feet, for whatever reason? We need a civil body on the side of victims.   

To finish with one sentence: we need to see a proper budget for it. Commissioner, we will work with you on this dossier going forward to deliver for our citizens. Passing laws is easy; enforcing them is what will change their lives.

Alyn has also added an explanatory video to his youtube channel: