Assistance in court proceedings

As of 1 January 2006, persons who are victims of violence or serious threat of violence or whose sexual integrity has been violated (e.g. by rape) are, under certain conditions, entitled to claim assistance in court proceedings.

While this statutory right applies in cases of deliberate acts, occurrence of special damage is not a requirement.

Stalking victims are also eligible for assistance in court proceedings.

Besides, family members (parents, spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren, siblings) of a person killed as the result of an offence, as well as other kin (nieces/nephews, cousins) who witnessed the offence, are also eligible to claim assistance in court proceedings.

Assistance in court proceedings is one of the essential rights accorded to victims in criminal proceedings.

Generally, assistance in court proceedings is two-part ("dual assistance in court proceedings") - firstly, psychosocial assistance before, during and after police and judicial questioning, and secondly, legal assistance, i.e. legal advice and representation in court by lawyers.

As of 1 June 2009, psychosocial assistance in court proceedings was also made possible in civil proceedings, provided that the latter are related to criminal proceedings. In particular, civil proceedings dealing with claims for damages and/or damages for pain and suffering are concerned with divorces, possibly also with proceedings for custody and visitation rights.

However, there is no right to legal assistance in civil proceedings. Representation by a lawyer is only free of charge if - and to the extent that - affected persons are eligible for legal aid.

Victims entitled to claim assistance in court proceedings must be informed about this right upon their first contact with the police or the court. As a rule, assistance starts when an offence is reported, in exceptional cases even earlier on, e.g. counselling related to the reporting of an offence.

For victims, assistance in court proceedings is invariably free of charge, irrespective of the outcome of the criminal proceedings. In the event of a conviction, the convicted person can be ordered to pay up to EUR 1,000.-- toward court fees. If the defendant is acquitted, the costs will be borne by the state.

Experts at the Violence Protection Centres/Intervention Centres against Violence, women’s shelters and women’s emergency helplines offer free psychosocial and legal assistance in court proceedings for women.

Aid facilities

Further information