The initiative was joined by representatives of the Ministry of Justice (MJ), State Agency for Child Protection (SACP), General Directorate for Execution of Sentences, National Institute of Justice, Ministry of Education and Science (MES), Agency for Social Assistance (ASA), Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation, Ministry of Interior (MoI), Academy of MoI, Social Activities and Practice Institute (SAPI), UNICEF - Bulgaria and the National Network for Children.
The session was held a few days after the Ministry of Justice presented for public discussion a package of legislative amendments to the Penal Procedure Code (PPC), the Penal Code (PC) and the Law on Execution of Sentences and Detention in Custody (LESDC), introducing the requirements of Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. The amendments will safeguard the rights of child and adult victims of crime to receive information, support and protection when participating in the criminal proceedings.
The draft law will inevitably raise the issue of synchronisation of national legislation. The Support Council provided an opportunity for discussion at professional level on the topic and challenges that the various systems (justice, social, police, health and education) will be faced with.
Deputy Minister Micheva highlighted the importance of applying an integrated approach when conducting the individual assessment of child and adult victims. The assessment determines the specific protection measures to be made available to the victims, while setting requirements such as: carry out the interview in premises designed or adapted for that purpose by a person of the same sex as the victim, conduct one interview, ensure that contact between the victim and perpetrator is avoided. The Social Activities and Practice Institute is piloting a Model for individual assessment of child victims of crime in Vidin region and as of late, in Montana and Shumen through a Child Centre for Advocacy and Support – Protection Zone. There are already cases where the individual assessments are conducted with the participation of representatives of the police, a prosecutor, Child Protection Departments and the social workers from the Complex of Social Services, with the latter ensuring the co-ordination within the multidisciplinary team and between the individual institutions. Co-operation between institutions at local level in cases involving child victims will be secured by way of Interaction Agreement, aiming to ensure rapid response in the case of crimes against children; it expands the Interagency Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism to engage a prosecutor as a mandatory participant in the case of child abuse being reported.
Six European countries have already transposed the Directive. The experience of Italy and France, presented by Dr. Nadya Stoikova, Director of Child and Justice. Violence Prevention Programme at SAPI shows that they rely on the resources available in their existing systems to ensure support and protection of the victims of crime in compliance with the Directive.
“It seems that there is greater clarity on what resources can be made available to child victims”, Dr. Stoikova comments. “We can use the child protection system, the service providers. The point is how to safeguard the rights of adult victims.”
The Social Activities and Practice Institute presented a proposal of a Minimum Standards Package to ensure that these rights are observed. The Package envisages the active participation (by way of funding and accreditation) of the MJ, MLSP, MoI, MH and local authorities, and comprises:
- Providing information to victims of crime concerning their rights;
- Individual assessment of the case;
- Emotional support;
- Referral to universal, social, recovery services;
- A package of psychological therapy services.
Developing professionals’ capacity to work with child and adult victims is part of taking their work to a higher professional level. The resources that the Social Activities and Practice Institute will allocate in the next two years, is provided under a project funded by the European Commission. The project involves the training of 980 professionals - judges and prosecutors, police officers, social workers, psychologists, lawyers, medical doctors, municipal employees - on conducting individual assessments and effective interaction when working with child and adult victims. It is the Institute’s expectation that there will be operational territorial teams in place in the 28 regions for interaction and co-ordination in cases involving child and adult victims of crime.