19/11/2015 – When discovering there was no help, no support nor advice for her and her son, Robbie, victim of a serious attack in Greece that left him with lifelong brain injuries, Maggie Hughes decided to take on the fight for the rights of victims. This fight led her from a helpless situation in 2008 in Crete to having helped influence EU legislation to support victims of crime in the EU in 2012 and to get a final judgement in Robbie’s case in September 2015.68/2015
Maggie’s case is reflective of hundreds from across the EU, with victim support organisations and NGOs often picking up the pieces in the aftermath. Among the many actors who have campaigned in Europe for strong EU legislation, the umbrella organisation, Victim Support Europe (VSE), has been very active, working with Maggie Hughes, the EESC and the European Institutions to build support for ambitious changes to the rights of victims in every Member State.
The Directive for the protection of Victims’ Rights should now be in place in all Member States (deadline was 16 November 2015) and citizens should be able to claim the rights derived from the Directive in national courts; namely, the right to individual assessment of their situation and respectful treatment, the right to understandable information for victims on their rights and case, the right for the family members of the victims and access to victim support and protection.
Mrs Walker Shaw, EESC Rapporteur on the Directive, who first brought the case of Robbie Hughes to the attention of the European Institutions at a EESC hearing in 2011, said: “I am so pleased that working together as European Institutions alongside victims organisations, Europe will now provide better support and protection for citizens in need. If you fall victim of a crime in the EU, you now know that you can be heard and listened to in your own language, that your family will also be helped and that your rights and dignity will be fully respected. We now have to ensure these rights become a practical reality for all victims across Europe. “
Maggie Hughes, mother of Robbie and active victims’ rights campaigner acknowledged “it took us time, but I am proud of this achievement, as it will be a torch of hope for many victims and families in need. When you are so profoundly hurt, when you are a victim of crime, everything around you is falling apart. If you are in a foreign country, it becomes even more difficult. These new rights will finally provide citizens across Europe with a cushion rather than a brick wall.”
Levent Altan, Executive Director of Victim Support Europe, underlined that: “Victim Support Europe has been calling for strong rights for victims in all European countries for over 25 years. This Directive is an important moment in achieving those rights. We are proud to have worked with the EU and Member States to take such a positive step and we will now press governments to honour their commitments and turn this European law into a reality for victims. Emotional and practical support is often essential to help victims recover and help them access all their rights. This is why we at VSE will continue our mission to establish victims support services in every Member State, for every victim that needs them“.
The EESC first began supporting Maggie’s campaign early 2011. Through these contacts, Maggie Hughes then met the European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, so she could share her experience and help inform the EU Victims’ Rights proposal. The EESC is proud to mark this major step for a better Europe, a Europe that works for all citizens when in need.
- EESC Opinion on the Victims’ Rights Directive (K. Walker Shaw), 7 Dec. 2011
- EU Directive 2012/29/EU “establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime”, 25 Oct. 2012
- Factsheet “The Victims’ Rights Directive: What will it bring?“, European Commission, November 2015