Thu, May. 06, 2004

Victims' Rights Reform

CK - Washington.   Bills by the Diet and the Upper House on victims' rights in criminal cases moved to the next stage in conference. The conference of both federal houses in Berlin produced a result that provides victims with improved access to non-public hearings even if they fail to file for ancillary prosecutor status. Persons who formally participate as ancillary prosecutors, Nebenkläger, have always had the right to file motions, offer statements and suggest conviction and punishment.

In addition, the conference bill strengthens victims' rights for damages claims that may be raised as an ancillary claims in criminal proceedings which helps avoid a separate civil trial. The conference agreed that such ancillary claims may now include compensation for pain and suffering, as is the case in a pure civil matter. Although the standard of proof is different in criminal and civil cases, judges apply and document the proper standards.

By way of background, civil matters in Germany law are non-jury cases. In fact, Germans tend to be perplexed when they realize that American law provides for a jury in civil matters. Attorney General Brigitte Zypries who will visit Washington next week introduced the bill in November 2003 as the Victims Rights Reform Statute, Opferrechtsreformgesetz.

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