On October 23, 2020, a workshop was held at the Center for the Study of Democracy, dedicated to new legislative initiatives and good practices in working with victims of crime. The meeting with representatives of intergovernmental, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement agencies and academia took place within the initiative Towards a more responsive victim-centered approach of the criminal justice system (RE-JUST), involving partners from Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany and Spain.
A collection of good practices in the treatment of victims of crime from the countries involved in the initiative was presented at the meeting. They focus on several main thematic areas: specialization of professionals working with victims, facilitation of victims’ participation in criminal proceedings, one-stop shop and specialized services, as well as a multidisciplinary approach. Draft amendments to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Law on Assistance and Financial Compensation to Victims of Crime were presented and commented upon. The changes in the domestic violence legislation are aimed at ensuring rapid, effective and adequate protection and support of victims of domestic violence and optimizing the imposition of protection measures. As regards the amendments to the criminal procedural and victims protection legislation, they seek to compensate for the incomplete transposition of the 2012 Victims' Rights Directive by introducing measures such as victims being accompanied by a person of their choice and further regulation of interviews of persons with special protection needs.
The presentation of the practices and the legislative changes provoked a lively discussion among the participants in the meeting. The continuing lack of regulation for restorative practices in the Bulgarian criminal process was highlighted, as well as the incompleteness of the proposed new provisions on victims. The need for enhanced training in victimology in Bulgarian universities was emphasized, as well as for the introduction of further good practices in the identification and referral of victims. In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, participants mentioned the increase of the cases of domestic violence, the work on which experiences difficulties due to the lack of a unified information system. The effect of the restrictive measures was also assessed as serious as regards victims of trafficking, as their access to justice and legal aid was further hampered, and traffickers in human beings continued using various online channels even more intensively. The participants in the meeting agreed on the idea of preparing an opinion on the draft changes and sending it to the competent authorities and other stakeholders.