Support to victims of crime must be sensitive, comprehensive, coordinated and effective; this involves recognising the framework in which victim support is conducted.
Among other factors, victim support in Portugal is bound by several international legal guidelines which regulate these matters. The Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings requires EU Member States to adopt, according to a pre-determined schedule, the legal, regulatory and administrative requirements that are necessary to promote and support the rights of victims.
Portugal does not yet have a coordinated and comprehensive victim support policy, particularly in the contexts of police, criminal justice, health, social security, and education. There is need to recognis the problems faced by victims and to coordinate more effectively between all the different bodies that have contact with victims, in terms of the information and support they receive, and the way financial costs and compensation are allocated. This can be achieved by establishing a set of principles and procedures.
The pratical view, reinforced by the comparative study within the EU, shows that the central role in any victim support system is performed by non-governmental organisations pursuing a social mission; a fact expressly recognised by the EU's Framework Decision. This decision requires Member States to promote the involvement of support services for victims, both in their initial reception and in the ongoing support provided to them. Member states must recognise and finance organisations offering victim support (article 13).
Non - govermmental victim support organisations arise as a response to the problem that the State does not fully meet the task of assisting victims of crime, particularly in communities.
10 POLICY MEASURES TO SUPPORT VICTIMS
1. Prevention of Victimhood. The Portuguese Government must ensurea reduction of crimes levels and hence victimhood; it must also ensure a reduction of secondary victimhood;
2. Respect and Recognition. The Portuguese Government must ensure that the legitimate interests of crime victims are taken into consideration in all stages of criminal proceesdings. All involved parties must adopt the proper procedures for dealing with the offender without making the victim more vulnerable, or leading to secondary victimhood. Only thein, can he victim develop a positive attitude more suited to deal with being a victim of crime;
3. Protection. The Portuguese Government must ensure effective protection for victims of crime, particularly when the victims are witnesses in criminal proceedings, or are threatened, abused or persecuted. Accordingly, it must ensure witness protection laws are effectively enforced. It must also ensure the availability of technological resources to protect victims – for example, the installation of personal alarms connected to the nearest police station and responded to as a priority and the allocation of additional funds to that end;
4. Information. The Portuguese Government must ensure that victims of crime are properly educated about the common problems and reactions arising from victimhood, about existing support services, about their rights, and about the development of judicial proceedings, in a timely, clear and comprehensive manner. It must also guarantee that victims of crime are informed of the economic, physical or emotional damage they have suffered as a result of the crime, irrespective of their relationship with the offender, or any fears for their personal safety or intimidation by that person;
5. Training. The Portuguese Government must ensure increased awareness of the difficulties faced by victims of crime and how these difficulties affect the process of the criminal justice system. Appropriate training can ensure that those working in the cinimal justice being in a fragile psychological, physical and social condition, with specific needs, resulting from their situation as victims of crime;
6. Victim/offender mediation. The Portuguese Government must ensure the implementation of restorative justice practices, particularly mediation between the victim and the offender. It must either legislate for and implement those practices derectly, or promote their implementation by civil society;
7. Compensation. The Portuguese Government must ensure fair compensation for victims of crime, increasing the range of crimes for which compensation can be claimed, and extending the coverage of damage. This must not only include damage to property. The availability of compensation must be more clearly publicised;
8. Health. The Portuguese Government must ensure free priority access to health care, for victims of crime without requiring payment in advance, not only for national health services, but also for medicatinal services;
9. Education and employment. The Portuguese Government must raise awareness of the specific needs of victims of crime, particularly amongs employers and teachers. These should be and refer those affected to the relevant services. The govermment must ensure proper support and protection for crime victims in the work place and in schools;