The rights of victims of crime

Victims of crime are recognized to have a set of rights which they can exercise in order to meet their needs and defend their interests and expectations.

These rights are set out not just in national laws but also in international legal instruments, such as the European Union Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support, and protection of victims of crime. To read this Directive, click here. – pdf

Here you can get to know these rights better and learn how they can be put into practice.

If any of these rights are not respected, the victim should report this to the authority responsible for ensuring compliance with the infringed right.

Victim support services can help you exercise some of these rights by providing information and explanations and guiding you through any procedures with the authorities.

Right to receive acknowledgement of the complaint

​ When you report a crime to an institution of pre-trial investigation, the officials must start a pre-trial investigation immediately. However in exceptional cases the laws provide for 10 days term for the pre-trial investigation institutions to check whether it is absolutely clear that no crime has been committed or that pre-trial investigation is not possible due to other reasons (e.g. the culprit has already been sentenced before for the crime reported, or the statute of limitations has already passed, etc.). Please note that laws do not request law enforcement officials who receive your report to issue any acknowledgment that the report has been received. However, recommendations approved by the Prosecutor General state that you could ask for a copy of your report with a registration mark on it to be made. In case you have submitted a formal report to pre-trial investigation institution about the crime suffered, you will be notified in writing both in case a decision to launch pre-trial investigation has been taken, and in case pre-trial investigation officer has decided not to proceed with the case. One of these decisions shall be taken by the pre-trial investigation officer not later than in 10 days after your report has been submitted. Please note that you have a right to appeal decision of the pre-trial officer to the prosecutor, and, in case the prosecutor does not change the decision, you can appeal the decision to a pre-trial judge. However, please note that the time frame for appeals is rather short – 7 days in both cases. Please also note that the Code of Criminal Procedure establishes that the person who has applied for pre-trial investigation to be started has a right to access the data that the decision not to start pre-trial investigation was based upon.


Right to victim support services

​Support of someone who knows how to deal with the situation victims face is very important. There are certain cases when you can apply for complex support, encompassing emotional, legal, technical, and other forms of assistance to victims of crime. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should contact one of the specialized complex support centers, their list is provided here. If you are a victim of human trafficking, you should contact one of the NGOs providing support to victims of this crime, their list is provided here. In cases when a child suffers a crime, you may contact the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service, the list of its regional divisions is provided here. In cases of any other crime suffered you may contact a victim support service, their list is provided here. Institutions of the first contact (police, public prosecution service, courts, institutions of health care and education, etc.) are obliged by law to immediately refer your case to a victim support service if you wish that. In this case you would be immediately contacted by a victim support service itself. You should also keep in mind that every victim of crime has a right to receive victim support services for free, irrespectively of whether the crime suffered was reported to police or not. Victim support service shall assess your individual needs and draft a plan of implementation of victim support measures that enumerates what forms of victim support and when shall be applied. Victim support services provide emotional and psychological support, assist victims to contact other institutions (including police and other law enforcement agencies), accompany victims of crime to other institutions (including police, court hearings and beyond), assist victims in other problematic issues related to crime suffered, e.g. transportation to a health care institution or to a court, repairing entrance to your dwelling destroyed by a culprit, assistance in understanding formal procedures to apply for social insurance benefits in cases when you are entitled to receive them, and similar issues.


Rights in the event of a decision not to charge the defendant

​ At the end of the pre-trial investigation the prosecutor supervising the pre-trial investigation of the case can decide that evidence gathered is not sufficient to charge the person suspected and there are no chance to gather more evidence of his or her guilt. There can also be a situation when it stays unknown who could be suspected with the crime and no prospects to find it out exist. In these cases, the prosecutor decides to terminate the pre-trial investigation and shall notify you as the injured party (victim) about his or her decision. You have the right to appeal the decision to the senior prosecutor in 20 days after you are notified about it. In case the senior prosecutor upholds the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision of the senior prosecutor to the judge of pre-trial investigation. Once again, you would have 20 days for the appeal. You have the right to appeal the negative decision of the pre-trial judge also. In this case you would have to apply to a court of a higher instance, however, would have only 7 days for the appeal. The laws establish that the injured party (victim) has a right to access the data that the decision to terminate pre-trial investigation was based upon. Please consider that usually decisions of prosecutors to end pre-trial investigations are well grounded, thus when deciding to appeal it would be best to assure representation of your interests by a practicing lawyer or to consult a professional lawyer at least. Please also note that terminated pre-trial investigations can be renewed afterwards, in case new substantial evidence emerge.


Right to mediation

​ In cases involving petty crimes or less serious crimes, such as threats, petty damage, non-aggravate thefts, non-aggravated assaults and many others, the laws allow the injured party (victim) and the culprit to get to settlement and thus to terminate the case. The settlement can be reached at any moment of pre-trial investigation or trial. Please note that it creates no formal obligation for the prosecutor or a judge to terminate the pre-trial investigation or the trial. However usually criminal legal procedures are terminated after a settlement between the injured party (victim) and the culprit is reached. It is not so easy to get into open communication with the culprit who has harmed you. Therefore, a special kind of services called mediation are created and are worth to use in many cases. Mediation is a procedure for solving disputes where parties of the dispute are helped to communicate between themselves by specially trained mediators. The easiest way to request a mediation is to approach the pre-trial investigation officer or a prosecutor leading your case (or a judge in the trial stage of the procedure) and to tell them that you would be interested in mediation. Then the aforementioned officials would contact the Probation Service of Lithuania and this institution would suggest you a qualified mediator. It is also possible to invite a mediator directly, without talking to the pre-trial officer, a prosecutor, or a judge first. You can find a qualified mediator in the lists provided by the State Guaranteed Legal Aid Service or Lithuanian Chamber of Mediators. When selecting a mediator yourself you should take into account that they specialize in different fields of law, thus it would be best to get in touch with someone who has experience in criminal justice issues. However, please note that when you involve a mediator yourself, his or her services shall be borne by you or together with the culprit. Vice versa, if a mediator employed by the Probation Service of Lithuania is involved with a help of pre-trial investigation officer, a prosecutor, or a judge, his or her services are covered by the state, and you do not have to pay for them. This option is also more feasible because (as it was mentioned above), the settlement reached through mediation creates no obligation for a prosecutor or a judge to terminate criminal procedure, they can hold an opinion that general interests of justice require to reach the final sentence. Thus an involvement of state officials that must take the final decision in the early stages of mediation provides a more solid ground to believe that they will take a decision to terminate the case if you manage to reach the settlement with the culprit.


Right to legal information and protection

Access to justice seeks to ensure that nobody is hindered in or prevented from exercising their rights because of their social or cultural background, financial means, or knowledge. Victims are entitled to legal aid and advice about their role during the entire procedure. State guaranteed legal aid is provided in two forms. First, primary legal aid is provided by lawyers employed at municipal administrations throughout Lithuania. You can find a lawyer that you could contact in your municipality here). Usually it is best to make a phone call and to book a time for legal consultation. Please note that you are entitled to receive primary legal aid in the municipality that you reside only, and you should apply there even if you have suffered criminal harm elsewhere. When applying for a primary legal aid you do not have to prove that your income is low or that you have suffered a crime. It is the right that everyone person legally residing in Lithuania is entitled to. However, the scope of services provided as a primary legal aid is rather limited. You will receive information and some consultation there, however the lawyers providing primary legal aid do not draft legal documents and cannot represent you neither in pre-trial investigation nor in court. The laws also establish that consultation provided as a primary legal aid cannot last more than 1 hour (except the consulting lawyer decides otherwise) and you would not be able to apply for another consultation on the same issue repeatedly. Secondary legal aid, that encompasses drafting of legal documents and legal representation both during pre-trial investigation and trial, is provided by practicing lawyers contracted by the State-Guaranteed Legal Aid Service. When requesting a secondary legal aid you should fill the form of application (you can find it here) and submit it to the State-Guaranteed Legal Aid Service. Please note that you can receive free secondary legal aid only after you have been acknowledged to be an injured party in the criminal case and only if you have suffered damages by crime. The laws make an exception only to victims of domestic violence, sexual crimes, human trafficking, hate crimes, organized crimes, terrorist crimes. In the latter case secondary legal aid is to be provided even if no damage has been suffered (however the requirement to be formally afforded the status of an injured party still applies). Of course, you can find a practicing lawyer to represent your case yourself. You can find a list of practicing lawyers here. Practicing lawyers can entrust representation of your interests to their assistants also. Your interests in the case can also be represented even by any other person who has a university degree in law, however only if the pre-trial investigation officer, the prosecutor, or the judge in your case agrees. Please note that the legal system of Lithuania is rather complex and some practicing lawyers who have good knowledge of civil or labor laws have no experience with criminal justice and thus would not be quite competent to represent your interests in the case to the full extent. Thus, when hiring a practicing lawyer yourself it would be worth to talk about his or her experience in cases like yours first.


Rights of victims resident in another EU member state

Being the victim of a crime in a foreign country places victims in a particularly vulnerable situation, as they do not know how criminal proceedings work or what support services are available, they have difficulty understanding another language and their stay in the country where the crime was committed is usually a short one, which makes it difficult to participate in the case. People who are the victims of a crime in a country other than their country of residence should be able to avail themselves of measures that make it easier for them to participate and, in particular, to be informed about the progress of the case. These measures include the authorities providing all the necessary information and appointing an interpreter to ensure the victim fully understands the different procedures in which they participate. The laws of the Republic of Lithuania provide that every institution of first contact shall provide victims residing in other EU states with information on all procedures and special measures of protection available to protect interest of the victim. A resident of a European Union Member State who is the victim of a crime in another Member State may report the crime to the authorities in their country of residence if they have not reported it in the country where the crime was committed. In this case, the authorities of the victim’s country of residence should promptly transmit the complaint to the relevant authorities of the country where the crime was committed. In the European Union, the victim of a crime that occurred in a country other than their country of residence may make a statement immediately after the crime was committed. However, if it is necessary to question the victim again but they are no longer in the country where the crime was committed, they may be questioned in a telephone conference or videoconference call from the country in which they reside. Victims of a violent crime committed in a European Union Member State who usually reside in another Member State may file their claim for compensation with the authority in their country of residence which has the jurisdiction to assess and decide on this kind of request. This authority should transmit the request to the relevant authority of the Member State in which the crime occurred. In Lithuania, the authority with the jurisdiction both to receive claims from people who reside in other countries and who were victims of crime in Lithuania and to send the claims of persons resident in Lithuania who were the victims of crime in other European Union countries is the Ministry of Justice.


I was a victim of crime: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of crime Criminal proceedings Who’s who in criminal proceedings


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