Mapping of the Current Practices of Victim Support Entry Points
To ensure that victims receive appropriate information, support and protection, the MDTF-JSS in partnership with the CECL assessed current practices of main actors that are interacting with victims in Serbia. Results of the assessment are presented in the Report ‘Compatibility of institutional practices in law enforcement, health and welfare and generic victim support entry points with the standards of the EU Directive 2012/29 on identification, individualised needs assessment and referral of victims of crime’. The assessment had in focus law enforcement, health services and victim support service with regard to the identification, needs assessment and referral of victims.
The analysis revealed that only victims of domestic violence and juvenile victims are clearly identified as victims in Serbia; identification is not a clear process in either law or practice across entry points and the timeliness of identification is not an explicit requirement. Serbian legislation does not provide for a generic procedure or standards for the individual assessment of victims’ needs in relation to support and protection measures. In practice, clear cut procedures are neither common nor standardized between ‘entry points’ and although methods and tools are in place for special groups of victims these are not shared within and between institutions. Standards regarding contact and interviews with child victims are well aligned with the Victims’ Directive. Specific gaps concern the timely assessment of needs, the involvement of the victim in needs assessment and confidentiality.
Referral and coordination is one of the weakest points of victim support services in Serbia. There is no general obligation for public institutions to refer victims of crime to support services, with the exception of victims of domestic violence and juvenile victims. No official referral mechanism is in place, referral is informal and often relies on personal contacts of the involved individuals. No common referralpractices were reported.
Some good practices already exist in Serbia and authorities should work on their roll out. Promising practice in Serbia include the establishment of specialized Victim services within the Prosecution and Courts, provision of special training to police officers and prosecutors in cases of juvenile and domestic violence, the existence of special protocols between law enforcement and medical services including detailed procedures for the treatment of victims of domestic violence, the existence of an interactive map of victim support providers and the multi-disciplinary coordination groups established by the law on domestic violence.
The comparative experience is valuable and includes the establishment of specialized offices for victims within the police and other entry points, the use of checklists and guidelines for uniform recording of victims’ needs, the establishment of helplines as entry points to victim support and the establishment of common referral mechanisms and procedures. The report provides details of comparative examples that could be used for informed decision making and improvement of current practices.
Legislative and practical gaps still need to be addressed in Serbia to ensure compliance with the standards of Directive 2012/29. Recommendations focus on the need to strengthen the legislative protection of victims through legislative reform, the need to standardize practice across entry points, to design a common referral mechanism and procedures, to establish a general or single centralized service for assistance and information; to strengthen coordination mechanisms and to establish a single entry point to the victim support system through a 24/7 national phone line and to facilitate the exchange of practice and experience and provide common training of professionals dealing with victims. Privacy and data protection issues need to be explicitly addressed.