Despite the transposition of the EU acquis on the protection of victims of crime, Bulgaria is still lagging behind in providing victims adequate support and participation in criminal proceedings. This was the conclusion reached by participants in the round table Victims of Crime – New Trends in Identifying, Needs Assessment and Referral in Bulgaria and the EU held by the Center for the study of Democracy on 8 December 2017. The event gathered magistrates, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the social assistance services and NGOs.
In his opening remarks Dimitar Markov, Senior Analyst at the CSD Law Program, outlined the main research and practical achievements of the Center in the area of improving the situation of victims of crime, such as a comprehensive report contributing to the drafting of relevant EU legislation, factsheets on the European e-Justice portal and a number of initiatives in the area of legal aid to victims of crime and the involvement of NGOs in their protection.
Prof. Dr. Dobrinka Chankova, criminal procedure professor at the Neofit Rilski South-West University, presented a selection of good practices from Cyprus, Estonia and the Netherlands concerning the rights of child victims of crime and integrated services provision to victims of gender-based violence. Inspector Desislava Viktorova from the National Police General Directorate summarized the latest data on victims of crime in Bulgaria and the challenges in victim identification faced by police officers. She also mentioned the need to differentiate between authentic and false complaints for committed crimes filed at the police and to counter the latter.
Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow at the CSD Law Program, focused on practices from Poland, Austria and Cyprus exemplary of integrated multidisciplinary work with victims of sexual and gender-based violence. She also dwelt on the amendments to the Law on Assistance and Financial Compensation of Victims of Crime and the Criminal Procedure Code made in relations to transposing Directive 2012/29/ЕU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA.
Prosecutor Ivaylo Iliev, Administrative Head of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Kyustendil, presented a critical overview of the criminal procedure provisions on the rights of victims of crime introduced in recent years. He stressed on some of the challenges the prosecution faces and the need to improve the conditions in which practitioners work with victims, such as raising the fees of interpreters and allocating resources to fit up ‘blue rooms’ for interviewing children and provide video conferencing equipment.
In the discussion that followed participants pointed to the outstanding challenges in the process of supporting victims of grave premeditated crimes and to the need to transfer foreign models into local practice only after adapting them to Bulgarian conditions.