Better protection for victims of violence anywhere in the EU – at least for now

As from 11 January 2015, victims of violence – notably those who have suffered domestic violence or stalking – are able to guarantee themselves better protection in any European Union (EU) Member State. What the regulations and directives provide for is that restraining, protection and barring orders issued in one Member State are now quickly and easily recognisable across the EU through simple certification.

“Rights of the victims of violence will now be guaranteed outside their own country too, wherever they are in Europe”, said Věra Jourová, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality back in January 2015. “In the EU, an estimated one in three women face violence at some point in their life.”

By those regulations and directives, any citizen of the EU who has suffered domestic abuse is able to feel safe to travel outside their home country – by simply transferring the order that protects them from the offender. To that end, the new rules provide for a certificate which will act as a kind of “passport” containing all essential information for a quick and easy recognition of the protection measure when the protected person moves or travels to another member state.

Previously, victims would have to go through complex procedures to get their protection recognised in other EU Member States – and enter a different procedure for certification in each country. Now, such protection orders will be easily recognised in any EU Member State, meaning a citizen who has suffered violence can travel without having to go through burdensome procedures.

“The new procedure will mean that women or men who suffer violence can have the protection they deserve and go on with their lives. They will be able to choose to live in another EU Member State or to travel on holiday without fearing for their safety,” Věra Jourová added.

The new mechanism consists of two separate instruments: the Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters and the Directive on the European Protection Order. Together, the two instruments ensure that all victims of violence have the possibility to get their protection orders recognised in any EU Member State. The mechanisms reflect the differences in the Member States’ national protection measures, which can be of civil, criminal or administrative nature. The rules together will ensure free circulation of the most common types of protection measures within the EU.

More protection for victims of violence in the EU

The need for support and protection of victims is backed up by a report published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which concludes that more targeted victim support services are needed in the EU.

Despite improvements, challenges remain for victim support services in many Member States. Specific suggestions for improvement include ensuring victims have access to targeted support services – including trauma support and counselling, removing bureaucratic hurdles for victims to legal aid, and ensuring people have information about their rights and the services available.

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