Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report




COM(02) 562

Draft Directive on compensation to crime victims.

Legal base:Article 308EC; consultation; unanimity
Document originated:16 October 2002
Deposited in Parliament:25 October 2002
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration:EM of 13 November 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (22896) 13770/01: HC 152-x (2001-02), paragraph 13 (12 December 2001)
To be discussed in Council:Date not set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  5.1  Just over a year ago, we considered a Commission Green Paper on this subject which sought responses on key issues.[9] At the time, we noted that the question of compensation for "cross-border" victims (those who suffer injury and loss in a Member State other than the one in which they normally live) was likely to provoke the most divergent views. We cleared the document, but asked for, and received, a copy of the Government's response.

The document

  5.2  Following consultation on the Green Paper, the Commission has now produced this draft Directive, which aims to ensure that all EU citizens and legal residents in the EU can receive adequate compensation for the losses they suffer if they fall victim to serious crime within the EU. (Article 2 contains the definition "an intentional crime against the victim's life, health or personal integrity": the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum explains that, besides violent crime, this is intended to cover serious crimes against a person which do not involve violence — such as, for example, some forms of sexual offences, or racist and xenophobic crimes.) Compensation would also be granted to close relatives and dependants of victims who have died as a result of the injuries sustained.

  5.3  As not all EU Member States currently have state compensation schemes, the draft Directive provides that all should establish a scheme, and that such schemes should meet common minimum standards regarding eligibility for compensation, the losses covered, and the criteria for determining the amount of compensation payable.

  5.4  The draft Directive also addresses the issue of "cross-border" compensation, opting for the "mutual assistance model" which received most support from consultation responses. The proposal would oblige Member States to appoint an authority, or authorities, to facilitate access to compensation in cross-border situations, by assisting with an application for compensation, and forwarding the application to the relevant authority in the Member State in which the crime occurred.

  5.5  The proposal does not deal with the possibility of the victim securing compensation directly from the offender, since that is covered by a separate Framework Decision.[10]

The Government's view

  5.6  The Government has some fundamental concerns about whether Article 308 is the appropriate legal base for this instrument, and, as a consequence, about whether the requirements of the principle of subsidiarity have been met. It has fewer concerns about the substance of the proposal, and its legal and financial implications.

  5.7  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) reminds us that the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Schemes are by far the most generous in the EU. Both comfortably exceed the minimum standards proposed, and no extra costs should be incurred in compliance. The new requirements for facilitating cross-border applications will require amendments to both schemes, and will also involve some extra costs, but these are unlikely to exceed £1 million a year. The Minister tells us that the Government already knows that the proposals in the draft Directive would be generally welcomed in the United Kingdom; further consultation is not, therefore, planned. The Minister helpfully outlines the provisions of each Article, highlighting a few points of concern to the UK. He has such a concern in relation to Article 4 — Principles for determining the amount of compensation — which allows Member States to determine compensation either on a case by case basis in line with their civil (tort) law or by reference to a tariff linked to civil damages. The Great Britain and Northern Ireland Schemes severed the link to common law damages on grounds of costs, which were rising rapidly at an unsustainable rate. During negotiations, the Government will, therefore, seek a less prescriptive form of words with no direct linkage between the tariff of awards and civil damages.

  5.8  The Minister also tells us that the Government will seek to amend Article 7 — Behaviour of the applicant in relation to the crime — so that it reflects the UK's approach that a person may be refused compensation because of a criminal record, as well as because of his or her conduct or behaviour in the incident.


  5.9  We note that the Government seems broadly content with the substance of the draft Directive, and that the concerns raised in its response to the Green Paper — especially in relation to "cross-border" compensation — have largely been met.

  5.10  The use of Article 308EC as the legal base, however, is clearly problematic. We await with interest the Minister's response to our sister Committee's detailed exposition of its concern that the use of Article 308 as a base for this measure could set a dangerous precedent, with the risk of opening the way to the large-scale harmonisation of civil law and social measures.

  5.11  For our part, we ask whether the Minister is content that compensation should be payable to victims of "intentional crime against the victim's life, health or personal integrity", especially since the phrase is defined in the Explanatory Memorandum as covering racist and xenophobic crimes, where no acts of violence may have been committed. We ask how this equates with current UK practice.

  5.12  We will keep the document under scrutiny until we know the Minister's views on these issues.

9  (22896) 13770/01; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

10  (21390) 9720/00; see HC 28-i (2000-01), paragraph 2 (13 December 2000).  Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 15 January 2003