Crime Victims – Germany

1. Before Reporting to the Police
2. Making a Police Statement
3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings
4. Court Proceedings
5. After the Verdict

1. Before Reporting to the Police

A. Consult a Counsel!

If a sex worker becomes a victim of violence or trafficking in women, the police is interested in her statements as victim/witness — for instance against perpetrators of trafficking in women, against persons who have brought her into the country or to whom she has had to give part of her earnings. But women who work as sex workers without the appropriate residence and work permits commit an offence themselves (for further information, see Sex Work and Prosecution). In this case, the woman is – as far as the police is concerned – both crime victim and accused.
She should therefore always seek advice before going to the police. Confidential advice is offered by advisory centres for migrant prostitutes. Advisory centres will not forward information regarding the woman, such as her name and address, to the police or aliens authorities. The advice is therefore always confidential.
If the woman decides to go to the police, she must be aware that she will have to give a statement not only to the police, but also to the prosecuting attorney and in court. Once a woman has notified the police of a crime, she cannot give a notice of revocation but has to testify throughout the legal proceedings. These proceedings may take a long time to come to a conclusion.

B. Confidential Legal Advice

Advisory centres can arrange contact with specialist lawyers. Generally, advisory centres will pay for the first appointment with the lawyer. Otherwise the woman herself must pay. She is entitled for the state to pay (Advisory Support – Beratungshilfe), but in this case has to give her name at the social security office.

C. Confidential Medical Examination

Advisory centres also have addresses of clinics where the woman can go for a confidential medical examination so that injuries and traces of the deed may be documented. This means that evidence of the deed is recorded and the woman has time to think about whether or not she wishes to report the crime. In most cases, advisory centres will carry the costs of this examination.

D. Police and Justice Prejudices against Prostitutes

Nowadays it is rare for violent and/or sexual crimes against sex workers to be inadequately investigated because of prejudices on the part of police, public prosecutors or judges. All large towns have specialist police departments for the examination of victims of sexual crimes. In addition, the woman may always say that she would rather speak with a female officer.

E. Trafficking in Women

1. Trafficking in Women is….
  • when a woman is actively encouraged through false promises regarding work possibilities and earnings to come to Germany, regardless of whether a job in another field was promised her or whether she was willing to work in prostitution;
  • when a sex worker’s identity papers or earnings are taken away from her;
  • when a woman is forced into prostitution or into giving sexual services;
  • when a sex worker is blackmailed, threatened, humiliated, beaten, raped or imprisoned.In the above instances it is irrelevant whether the woman previously worked as a sex worker or whether she was willing to work as a sex worker because/while she was misinformed about working conditions and earnings.The name of the criminal offence in German Law is trafficking in Human Beings (§§ 180b, 181 Criminal Code/Strafgesetzbuch).
2. Special Rights for Trafficked Women

Victims of trafficking in women have access to special support services. For instance, they may be granted residence toleration while thinking about whether to give evidence as witness against the perpetrator. During this time they are accommodated in a safe place. Criminal proceedings against the woman for immigration offences are generally abandoned. Support services vary according to region; advisory centres can give information on these differences. For details of special offers for, and the rights of victims of trafficking in women, see the corresponding paragraphs below.

2. Making a Police Statement

The police requires the woman to make a statement in the police station as victim/witness — for instance against perpetrators of trafficking in women or against persons who have brought her into the country or to whom she has had to give part of her earnings.
Please note:
A woman who works without the appropriate residence and work permits commits a crime. She is then an accused party and has different rights to when merely a witness!
 (See Prosecution)

A. Right to Remain Silent

A victim/witness is not obliged to speak when questioned by the police (she is, though, when questioned by the prosecuting attorney or in court). If she does speak, she may remain silent about anything which incriminates her or a member of her family.

B. Female Officer

If the woman wishes to make a statement as witness, she may ask to be questioned by a female officer.

C. Translator

She is entitled to the services of a translator in her own language. Should she feel unable to trust the translator, she should tell the police. However, she is not legally entitled to another translator.

D. Lawyer

She is entitled to her lawyer’s presence at questioning.
Hint: Memorise a lawyer’s telephone number!

E. Trusted Person

She may generally ask for the presence of a trusted person (e.g. a female friend or advisor) at questioning. However, the police is entitled to refuse this request.

F. No Custody

As witness, the woman may not be held in police custody. However, she may be detained if she is also accused of illegal residence/illegal employment. (See Prosecution).

G. Special Rights for Trafficked Women

If the woman’s statement or other evidence leads the police to believe that she may have been a victim of trafficking in women (Definition), she has special rights. These rights are the same all over Germany, but are put into practice differently according to region.
1. Consideration Period

The woman may be granted residence toleration to enable her to think about whether she wishes to give evidence as witness against the perpetrator(s) in court proceedings. The standard toleration period all over Germany is four weeks; in some states this may be extended for up to three months. If, after this period, the woman decides to give evidence as witness, she is granted a toleration until the time when she gives evidence as witness. If she decides against giving evidence, she is obliged to leave the country after the expiry of the toleration period of four weeks.

The toleration is regionally limited, that is, the woman may not leave the permitted town or region.

2. Advice and Support

During the consideration period and at least until she gives evidence as witness, the woman is entitled to obtain advice and support from a non-state advisory centre. The woman should insist that police establish contact to such an advisory centre.

a) Accommodation and Help

The advisory centre offers her safe accommodation, socio-psychological care and support in dealing with authorities.

b) Legal Advice

The advisory centre will generally put the woman in contact with a lawyer who will inform her of her rights so that she may decide for or against giving evidence. Costs are normally covered by the advisory centre.

c) No Criminal Proceedings Against the Victim/Witness

If the woman is the victim of a serious crime (trafficking in women, rape, serious acts of violence) and is prepared to give evidence as witness, criminal proceedings against her – because of, for instance, illegal residence or illegal employment – may be abandoned at the discretion of the authorities; that is, there are no criminal proceedings against the woman and she may not be detained for investigation purposes.
However, during the criminal proceedings against the perpetrator she is then obliged to give evidence as witness (i.e. criminal action may be taken against her because of false testimony/perjury if it can be proven that she lied or omitted to mention a piece of information).
Proceedings against the woman will generally not be abandoned if the woman has already been detected several times by police as an illegal resident or illegal employee.

3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings

After questioning the woman and other witnesses, police and public prosecution decide whether to initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrator(s). During these proceedings, police and public prosecution gather evidence against the perpetrator. During the hearings, a woman who is the victim of a crime may be questioned again as victim/witness. At the end of legal proceedings the public prosecutor decides whether to accuse the perpetrator before a criminal court (e.g. of trafficking in human beings, rape, bodily injury).

A. Duration of Legal Proceedings

Often a long time passes between the woman’s first hearing as witness, the beginning of legal proceedings and her statement as witness. This is because proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar offences are often large-scale processes involving many accused parties. For this reason, legal proceedings can last from six months to a full year.

BTrafficked Women

1. Right to Residency

If the woman decides to give evidence in court as witness against the perpetrator, she may be granted a toleration at least until she gives evidence before court. If the woman has a residence permit for other reasons (e.g. marriage), she does not, of course, require a toleration.

The possibility of obtaining a toleration applies mostly to victims of trafficking in women. However, in cases of other serious crimes (rape, serious violence) the woman may also be granted a toleration until she gives evidence, if her statement is important in the eyes of court. The toleration is regionally limited: that is, the women may not leave the permitted town or region.

If the woman is neither granted a toleration nor has any other right to residence, she must leave the country within the time specified by the aliens authority, despite having made a police statement as witness.

2. Living Conditions

Victims of trafficking in women and other women who have been granted a toleration as witness may be accepted into care programmes run by advisory centres, or into protection schemes run by the police.

a) Care Programmes at Advisory Centres

These programmes offer safe accommodation, socio-psychological care and support in dealing with authorities and visiting the doctor. Social workers at the advisory centres are, like the migrant sex workers, from many different countries.

b) Police Protection Schemes

Police protection programmes also offer safe accommodation and help in regulating authority matters. However, women in these protection schemes are often placed in solitary accommodation and are not permitted to take up contact to people they know from working as a sex worker. If the police discover that the woman has contravened these rules, she may be excluded and rejected from the programme.

c) Social Benefits

The women are given money for food and clothing according to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Law (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz).
In cases of acute illness they are also entitled to medical care from a doctor of their choice. It is difficult to obtain approval for psychotherapeutic treatment.

d) Work

Generally, the woman is not permitted to work while waiting for the trial to begin. If the authorities realise that she is working nevertheless (whether as a sex worker or in another occupation), the aliens authorities may withdraw the toleration and oblige the woman to leave the country.
However, in exceptional cases the woman may be granted a work permit if she has found a job. This applies all over Germany but is currently put into practice in only a few states (e.g. Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia).
can help with the application for a work permit. On a small scale, advisory centres also offer and arrange further education and leisure activities.

3. Decision to Appear as Witness or Joint Plaintiff

Before the commencement of court proceedings, the woman should decide — together with her lawyer — whether to give evidence as witness only, or whether also to appear as joint plaintiff.

a) Role as Witness

1. Limited to the Giving of Evidence as Witness
As witness, the woman is invited only to her hearing as witness. She may neither participate in earlier appointments, nor may she obtain information regarding the contents of files. She is not informed about the course of proceedings, nor is she able to influence these.

2. Lawyer
The witness may be accompanied to her hearing by a lawyer. The lawyer ensures that the witness’s rights (e.g. exclusion of the public and the accused party, rejection of inadmissible questions; see Protection of the Witness) are observed.

3. Fees
In cases of trafficking in human beings, sexual crimes and attempted murder, the lawyer’s fees are always paid by the state. In cases of other crimes, the state pays only if the woman herself has no means and legal representation seems necessary. Repayment of fees is arranged in court by the lawyer of the client’s choice.

b) Rights as Joint Plaintiff

As joint plaintiff, the woman has considerably more rights during proceedings than if she is merely a witness:

1. Right to View Documentation
The lawyer of a joint plaintiff is entitled to view documentation during the initial enquiry and during main proceedings. Thus, the woman learns early on what character court proceedings will take, e.g. how many accused parties there are, whether further witnesses are to give evidence or whether she will be chief witness, what evidence the public prosecution has gathered etc.

2. Participation in All Appointments
The lawyer and — if she wishes it — the woman herself may participate in all court appointments. This is another opportunity for the woman to prepare for her statement as witness.

3. Lawyer’s Rights of Procedure
The woman’s lawyer files her own petitions during proceedings, is entitled to sum up the case before the court and can lodge a limited number of appeals. In this way she ensures that the court and public prosecution take into consideration the woman’s interests and rights, for instance by insisting that damages and compensation payments be met.

4. Lawyer’s Fees
Where the lawyer acts as joint plaintiff in cases of trafficking in human beings, sexual crimes and attempted murder, the client’s chosen lawyer’s fees are always paid by the state. In other cases, the state will pay only if the woman herself has no means and legal representation seems necessary. Repayment of fees is arranged in court by the lawyer of the client’s choice.

c) Requirements for Joint Plaintiff Status

Generally, the witness’s lawyer applies for joint plaintiff status before the commencement of court proceedings. However, the woman may decide until the passing of sentence to appear as joint plaintiff.

4. Court Proceedings

In court, the case is considered afresh, that is, independently of previous enquiries by police and public prosecution. When criminal proceedings are opened, the crime victim is invited to give her evidence as victim/witness. At the end of the proceedings the court issues a verdict as to whether the perpetrator(s) is/are guilty or not.

A. Duration of Court Proceedings

Proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar crimes are often long-winded, large-scale processes. Many details are dealt with and many accused parties prosecuted all at once. For this reason, main court proceedings — that is, the period between the first court appointment and the verdict — generally last(s) about six months. If an appeal is lodged against the verdict, the final decision may even be delayed by several years.

B. A Witness Gives Evidence

The following explanations apply to the statement made by the woman in question, whether as witness only or as joint plaintiff.
1. Duration

The statement is given either in the course of one day or of several days. Occasionally the witness may also be asked to attend a second time later in the proceedings because new questions concerning her have arisen.

2. Questions

Questions are put to the witness by, in order, the judges, the public prosecution, the defence and under certain circumstances her own lawyer.

3. Obligation to Testify

The witness must answer questions truthfully and omit nothing; otherwise she risks criminal action against her on grounds of perjury/false testimony. However, she may remain silent on anything which incriminates her or her family.

4. Lawyer

When giving evidence, the woman may be accompanied by a lawyer. The lawyer makes sure that the witness’s rights are observed.

5. Translator

The witness is entitled to the services of a translator in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the translator, she can refuse her/him on grounds of interest. The court then decides whether to provide another translator.

C. Protection of the Witness

In court, the witness’s lawyer insists on the witness’s rights to protection. For this reason, witness and lawyer should discuss beforehand what the individual possibilities for protection are, and which of these the witness wishes.
1. Police Protection

The woman may be accompanied and protected by the police during the entire proceedings, and particularly during her statement as witness. There is no legal entitlement to this protection. The police decide to what degree they consider the woman endangered. In order to obtain the best possible protection, the woman should inform her lawyer and the police of threats made by the perpetrators and others.

2. Giving Evidence Anonymously

Generally the woman is not required to state her address. Where she is at high risk she may also abstain from giving her identity. However, in practice this right is seldom granted.

3. Change of Identity

If the woman is at high risk, she may be given a new identity. However, this only happens in very exceptional cases.

4. Evidence in a Non-Public Hearing

The public is excluded from proceedings if personal or intimate questions are to be put to the witness. In practice, this is always the case with sexual crimes.

5. Evidence Without the Presence of the Accused

The accused party is excluded if there is a risk that the victim may not tell the truth in his presence out of fear or for other reasons. This is generally the case in proceedings relating to trafficking in women. It is also possible that the witness be seated in another room and her statement relayed by video to the courtroom.

6. Ban on Soliciting Certain Evidence

The only forbidden questions are those which endanger the witness (e.g. concerning her address) or which are unrelated to the matter.

7. Waiver of Giving of Evidence in Court

A witness who has already been questioned in detail during the enquiry may be relieved altogether from the necessity of giving evidence in court, if the perpetrator agrees to a waiver. However, in case of a waiver the perpetrator obtains a more lenient sentence.

D. Compensation for the Victim

1. From the Perpetrator
a) During Criminal Proceedings

During criminal proceedings, the woman in question may already make damages and compensation claims through her lawyer (“Adhäsivverfahren). However, it is up to the criminal court whether or not to pass a verdict on these claims. In practice criminal courts often reject them.

b) During Civil Proceedings

The woman may also make her claims parallel to the criminal proceedings or afterwards before the civil court. However, if she makes them before the end of criminal proceedings she risks failure because of the difficulty of proving her case. After the end of criminal proceedings the woman must generally leave the country; in this case her only chance is to appoint a lawyer to file the complaint for her.

2. From The State

In some states (e.g. North Rhine-Westphalia), women may, according to the Victims’ Compensation Law (Opferentschädigungsgesetz), receive benefits, e.g. payments for therapy and one-off financial settlements on leaving the country. Other states (e.g. Hamburg) still refuse to grant such benefits. However, developments in Germany as a whole are positive for women.
Claims may already be made during criminal proceedings. The Maintenance Authority (Versorgungsamt) is responsible.

E. Trafficked Women

Procedure concerning women’s right to residence, their living conditions and rights during court proceedings are the same as those as detailed above under Initiation of Legal Proceedings.

If the woman has no right to residence, she may be granted a toleration at least until she gives evidence before court. In some states (e.g. Lower Saxony, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse), the woman is generally granted a toleration until the first verdict. The toleration is rarely extended until the final coming into force of the verdict (i.e. after the channelling of appeals).

5. After the Verdict

A. Right to Residence

If the woman does not possess a right to residence independently of the trial, it is difficult for her to remain in Germany after the conclusion of proceedings.
1. Residence Due to Danger in Own Country

Where there is concrete danger that, in her own country, the woman’s life, health or freedom will be endangered by the perpetrator (or others), she may obtain a further toleration or a residence permit. However, conditions for proof of the danger are very high, so that in practice the right is seldom granted.

2. Residence For Other Reasons

Independently of her role as witness, the woman may be entitled to residence for other reasons, e.g. marriage, asylum or humanitarian reasons (compare Migration).

B. Support in Leaving the Country

1. Travel Costs

If the woman has no means of her own, social services pay travel costs for her homeward journey and for the procuring of documents (IOM funds). However, the woman must agree not to re-enter Germany or, in case of re-entering, to reimburse the costs.

2. Help With Setting Up

Generally, no means are available to help the woman set up in her own country. Only the advisory centre SOLWODI has access to public funds for a returnees’ programme (e.g. loans for establishing a living and for further education). However, victims of trafficking in women have only very limited access to this.

3. Contacts

Advisory centres in Germany help clients organise their homeward travel and supply contact information for support in the home country.

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