How To Help Victims Of Violence Through The European Protection Order
The EPO is vital in protecting victims of violence across the European Union. The basic principle of the EPO is that it offers a mechanism for the mutual recognition of protection orders across EU member states, meaning victims are protected when moving from one country to another.
Since 2015, the European Protection Order (EPO), an EU directive which protects victims of violence, has been implemented in a law in the Czech Republic.
Protection orders help victims -- often of gender-based violence -- by placing restrictions on alleged abusers. Such protection orders can place physical restraining orders on people and forbid them from contacting the victim electronically, or by other means.
However, in reality, the EPO is rarely being used in the Czech Republic. Here are the main reasons why the measures are not being used enough and suggestions for how the situation could be improved.
- Too Many Misdemeanours
Czech authorities often do not take gender-based violence seriously. It is common for victims to report their cases to the police, hoping that criminal charges will be filed, but the offenses are classified as misdemeanours. As the EPO doesn't apply to misdemeanour cases, the victims do not have the opportunity to benefit from the protection mechanisms.
- Overreliance On Civil Law
In the Czech Republic, domestic violence falls under the domain of both civil and criminal law. However, after starting criminal proceedings, state prosecutors do not normally issue protection orders based on criminal law because the victim is already protected by measures under civil law. Therefore, the victim cannot benefit from the EPO as it does not apply to civil cases.
- A Need For Stronger Sanctions
For breaking protection orders mandated by the EPO, it would be beneficial to have a provision that allowed the suspect to be taken into custody. At the moment, financial penalties are usually handed down. This can be problematic when the money to pay the fines comes from a shared, family budget, often to the detriment of the victim.
- Helping Foreign Residents
The Czech Republic could benefit from a database of legal professionals with foreign-language skills who are able to help non-Czech speaking victims apply for EPO protection measures. This could be linked to the current database of legal professionals representing victims.
- Speeding Up The Process
A deadline for the court and state prosecutor to issue and for the court to recognize the EPO would be beneficial. Currently, the authorities are not obliged to act within any specified time period.
- Monitoring And Accountability
A database about the usage of EPO measures in the Czech Republic would be useful in monitoring their effectiveness and troubleshooting any issues with their implementation.
In conclusion, education is key. Too few legal professionals in the Czech Republic are familiar with the instruments of the EPO. That means victims of violence aren’t able to benefit from the protections offered, leaving them in legal limbo and sometimes in danger.