FAIRCOM – UOC’s online questionnaire as an alternative to the workshop

In order to share experiences and good practices in the framework of the FAIRCOM project, the UOC team had scheduled, together with CEJFE (Centre d’Estudis Jurídics i Formació Especialitzada, a public entity belonging to the Department of Justice of the Catalan Autonomous Government) a presential workshop on March 24, which had to be suspended due to confinement imposed by the Government, as a consequence of COVID-19.

We sent 25 invitations, to professionals working either in several fields: lawyers, forensic doctors, prosecutors, judges, psychologists, victims’ support associations, etc. We had to communicate all of them that the workshop was cancelled, but decided to email a short questionnaire to the 25 people invited to the workshop, adding a member of Mossos d’Esquadra, the Autonomous Community police force.

The responses received had interesting points:

– About the most relevant difficulties for victims of sexual crimes to get effective compensation

Concerning minors, a major difficulty is proving that there has been abuse. In fact, most of the cases that reach the justice system end in dismissal.

The provisions of the Spanish Law 35/1995 regarding compensation are insufficient, since they refer only to very serious physical or psychological damage, and private psychological treatment of the damages caused by the crime.

The compensation for most physical and psychological damages (determinable by sentence) are established as civil compensation, and more often than not the amount is not paid (the aggressor, for instance, can become insolvent), or not in due time, or not in full.

Finally, reference was also made to the fact that some victims are reluctant to accept financial compensation from the aggressor for considering it “dirty money”.

– About good practices that may favor effective compensation for the victims

The Offices for Crime Victims Support could give the victims information about what to expect from the judicial system, so that they do not feel disappointed.

Submitting requests for state compensation, as well as the follow up of the petitions must be as easy as possible.

Using restorative justice procedures when possible can also promote forgiveness and meet the victim’s possible need for the aggressor to acknowledge the wrong done.

– About improvements that could create opportunities for effective compensation to the victims

As seen before, revising the criteria for granting compensation as far as damage or injury are concerned. The evaluation should include emotional impact, which can be especially severe in child victims.

Create a specific figure specifically trained in compensation who can accompany victims throughout the process.

Grant compensation regardless of the financial situation of the aggressor. It is not acceptable that the victim has to claim before the judicial system to get paid. Criminal enforcement services should ensure that the compensation is paid, both in full and on time. It would be useful to have automatic systems and procedures to investigate and seize assets, so as the aggressor can not free himself from the duty of payment.

About the actors responsible for an effective implementation of the improvements

The participants agreed that the main actors were those responsible for legislating. Also, the legal operators responsible for the investigation and conviction of crimes, in order to get a full understanding of the scope of the consequences and the type of damage, and clear the path to a fair sentence. Creating specialized judicial bodies or designing specific training in the matter would be of great interest. Training is also essential for all teams and professionals involved in counseling and intervention with the victim, including the police.