Protection of Victims’ Rights
Continuing a series of initiatives aimed at improving legal assistance to vulnerable groups in Russia, CWI organised a training programme on victim support in cooperation with the Legal Training Centre (St Petersburg) and Solicitors International Human Rights Group.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the training this year was delivered in a remote mode. However, it provided an opportunity for a larger audience from distant Russian regions to join the programme online.
The programme included a video course consisting of eight talks by British and Russian experts, individual home assignments and the final workshop in St Petersburg. An overview of the victim support system in England and Wales and recommendations for Russian lawyers were published on the website of The Legal Training Centre.
FULL PROGRAMME REPORT
Assistance to Victims of Crime
Implemented jointly with the Legal Training Centre (St Petersburg, Russia), with the support of Solicitors International Human Rights Group.
In the year 2020/21, the programme was delivered in an unusual format. Due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, we had to drop an introductory workshop in St Petersburg and a study visit to the UK, replacing these elements with a series of pre-recorded video talks. However, the distance mode had its advantages as a larger number of Russian lawyers from many regions had a chance to sign up for the course: in total, 160 practising lawyers and law students from 40 Russian cities took part.
18 December 2020 – 1 February 2021
In total, eight talks were recorded and posted on the CWI YouTube Channel. Russian subtitles were added to the presentations in English.
These videos can be accessed below.
Victims in England & Wales
Barry Snelgrove, former Civil Servant in criminal justice and Justice Adviser to Agencia.
Compensation, recompense and reparation. Do victims of crime get a fair deal in the UK?
Bryan Gibson, barrister and author.
Victims of Crime and the Criminal Justice System
Tan Ikram, Senior District Judge of England and Wales.
Transforming Victims' Services
Helen Gibson, Managing Director of Agencia.
The Work of Victim Support and Effectively Supporting Victims of Crime
Alex Mayes, Victim Support External Affairs Manager.
Protection of Victims of Torture
Alexander Brester, advisor and head of strategic projects at Khoroshev & Partners.
Legal Assistance to Victims of Medical Malpractice
Elena Topilskaya, defence lawyer at St Petersburg Bar Association.
Legal Assistance to Victims of Road Traffic Accidents
by Anna Sungurova, a defence lawyer at the St Petersburg Bar Association, Smolina, Malkin and Partners.
The Russian experts focused their talks on three categories of cases. The victims in these cases find themselves in completely different situations but all suffer from stress, uncertainty and unpredictability, in addition to habitual neglect and lack of systemic support in Russia.
Elena Topilskaya, formerly a senior investigator at St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office and now a defence lawyer at St. Petersburg Bar Association, spoke about representing victims of medical malpractice entailing grave consequences. In recent years, investigation of iatrogenic crimes in Russia has been in the limelight, yet victims remain in the shade. They need qualified legal assistance, primarily as they need to deal with the most complicated evidence: medical documents and expert opinions. Lawyers can help by sharpening their own professional skills in this area and by prompting other legal professionals to do the same, thus raising the general standard of justice in this type of cases.
Alexander Brester, advisor and head of strategic projects at Khoroshev & Partners, spoke about the protection of victims of unlawful violence by law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, it is still a serious issue in Russia. People tortured in police custody, pre-trial detention centres and prisons are extremely limited in their capacity to protect their rights. In itself, initiating a criminal case and obtaining the status of a victim is very problematic for them. The trainer particularly talked about civil liability of the state for torture and ill-treatment of persons in custody and the use of international protection tools, such as applications to the European Court of Human Rights.
Anna Sungurova, a defence lawyer at the St Petersburg Bar Association ‘Smolina, Malkin and Partners’, presented her recommendations for legal assistance to victims of road accidents. On the face of it, it seems that these are standard cases where all lawyers feel confident and victims should easily receive fair compensation. However, even in this area victims often need serious and elaborate legal assistance. Judicial practice is changing; the approaches of insurance companies are changing; new complex legal and economic schemes are introduced, such as for example ride-hailing services; new technologies for documenting traffic violations are developed. The size of compensation for victims is always an issue in this area of practice.
The brilliant British experts spoke about the system of victim protection in England and Wales. In their video presentations, they spoke about the history of victim support, the positive and negative developments in the criminal justice system, and the current issues that need to be resolved. The experts shared their comments on the ongoing changes from the point of view of their own professional experience.
Presentation of the UK experience always provokes conflicting reactions in the audience, from “What great ideas! (norms, schemes, procedures, practices)” to “It is impossible for us! (they have different traditions, culture, professional background, resources, etc)”. Of course, when discussing protection of victims’ rights, we do not assume borrowing or directly transferring institutions, practices or codes, e.g. the Victim Code. The programme did not aim to conduct an academic comparative research. Communicating with the English colleagues, even in a virtual format, the Russian participants were able to note the values, approaches and attitudes shared by practitioners working in different environments, from judges to volunteers, and to see how various agencies and professionals cooperate with each other. It was also important to find out that the well-established English justice system is able to change and test new approaches.
Following the video talks, the trainees had an opportunity to email questions to the experts and receive their answers and comments. Many participants took advantage of this opportunity.
1-15 February 2021
The trainees were asked to choose one of the suggested topics:
1) Analysis of a successful case where they provided legal assistance to a victim of crime;
2) Overview of the regional practice of legal assistance to victims, focused on a specific type of crime;
3) Concept of a draft law on victim support.
The papers were assessed by the Russian trainers. Comments by Russian experts were sent to the trainees individually by email.
19 March 2021
The final workshop was organised in St Petersburg in a ‘face-to-face’ format – at last!
It was attended by 37 participants from St Petersburg, Moscow, Lipetsk, Syzran, Stavropol, Novokuznetsk, Maykop (Adygeya), Novocheboksarsk (Chuvashia), Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok.
Maria Razumovskaya presented the Russian translation of the report on the system of victim support in England and Wales. The report written by Florentine Röell is based on recent interviews (taken in February and March 2021) with senior managers of various agencies and organisations dealing with victim support, among them Claire Waxman, Victims’ Commissioner for London and Simon Powell, Head of Victim Care for the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner. The paper provides an excellent overview of the victims’ needs and rights, the actors involved in the victim support system and the ways of their interaction, and recommendations for future improvements. The report and the attached diagram ‘A Victim’s Journey through the Criminal Justice System’ (from The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime) will be useful to all those interested in victim support in and outside Russia.
The report can be accessed below.
Four original publications were prepared specifically for the purposes of the Project:
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Assisting Victims of Crime: Experience of England and Wales by Florentine Röell (in Russian translation)
Guidelines for Legal Assistance to Victims of Torture and Violence Inflicted by Law Enforcement Agencies by Alexander Brester
Representing Victims of Medical Malpractice by Elena Topilskaya
Guidelines for Representing Victims of Road Traffic Accidents by Anna Sungurova
All teaching materials are made available on this website, and on the website of the Legal Training Centre, for further dissemination and use by Russian lawyers across the country.
Feedback from the Trainees
“Presentations of the British colleagues allowed us to look at the system of protecting the rights of victims abroad. This gave me an impulse to be engaged in legislative initiatives on this issue in my country. The lectures of the Russian colleagues were of the most practical nature, which, of course, will be useful for my future work.”
“I would like to say a big thank you for all those who organised this project in such difficult conditions and restrictions caused by the pandemic. The practical aspect of applying legislation and the discussion of cases were most interesting. Comparison with the system in England provides a clear example of what we should aim for in Russia.”
“I am positive that the gained knowledge on certain methods and tactics will definitely improve the quality of my legal work.”