Victims of trafficking are entitled to compensation for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage they have sustained. The compensation might include payment for costs for medical and/or psychological treatment; benefits foregone and due payment (the money the victims earned for the trafficker); compensation for non-pecuniary damage because of the emotional stress, pain and suffering the victims have experienced as a result of the crime committed against them.
The right to compensation in Bulgaria may be implemented in several ways.
Compensation directly from the trafficker awarded in criminal proceedings
Victims of trafficking (or their heirs) may lodge a civil claim in criminal proceedings for compensation for the damage suffered as a result of the crime. If the victim is a minor or, due to physical and mental disabilities is unable to protect their interests, the prosecutor may lodge a civil claim on their behalf.
Victims may also ask for a collateral of the civil claim the course of criminal proceedings.
A civil claim for compensation for damage lodged in criminal proceedings is exempt from court fees.
The compensation for pecuniary (for example, medical costs, lawyer’s fees) or non-pecuniary (pain, suffering) damage is awarded by the court on an equitable basis.
Even if the criminal proceedings are terminated and no sentence is reached, the civil claim may be lodged independently before a civil court.
Nota bene! If, however, the court acquits the defendant because the defendant did not commit the crime or did not act with intent, the civil claim will not be granted.
Compensation awarded in civil proceedings
Financial compensation from the State
If no compensation is awarded to the victims in criminal or civil proceedings, they have the right to a lump-sum compensation from the State. The financial compensation is provided solely for pecuniary damage and amounts up to BGN 10,000.
Financial compensation is provided after the entry into force of a conviction or a plea bargain concerning the crime resulting in the damage and if the criminal proceedings were terminated due to the expiry of the statute of limitation, amnesty or transfer of the criminal proceedings or if they were terminated due to the failure to detect the perpetrator. An application for financial compensation is to be filed within one year of entry into force of the conviction or the act to terminate/suspend the criminal proceedings.
The financial compensation covers pecuniary damage resulting from the crime such as costs for treatment and judicial expenses, benefits foregone, means of subsistence foregone etc.
An application for financial compensation is lodged with the National Council for Assistance and Compensation to Crime Victims at the Ministry of Justice directly or via the regional governor or a victim support organisation.
If the crime resulting in the pecuniary damage was committed in another EU Member State, the victims of trafficking may lodge an application for financial compensation to the competent authority of the respective Member State via the National Council. Information about the competent authorities and a compensation form can be found at:
Applications for financial compensation are lodged within one year of the entry into force of the conviction or the act to terminate or suspend the criminal proceedings. They are heard within one month of submission; if necessary, the term may be extended to three months. The National Council which is made up of representatives of judicial and executive institutions takes decisions by an ordinary majority; the decisions are final and are not subject to appeal.
Financial compensation is not provided when:
1. The victim was convicted, in the past 5 years, of any of the crimes listed in the Crime Victim Assistance and Financial Compensation Act (terrorism, premeditated murder, fornication, rape, trafficking in human beings, crime ordered by/in execution of an organised criminal group, other grave crime);
2. The act was committed in a state of serious irritation caused by the victim through an unlawful act which resulted in or could have resulted in grave consequences for the guilty person or their relatives and kin;
3. The act was committed in excess of the boundaries of inevitable defence;
4. The victim obtained compensation in another manner;
5. The victim did not inform the competent authorities about the crime unless the victim was unable to do so for good reasons.
When the victim contributed to the coming about of the criminal result, this entails a reduction in the possible financial compensation.
Alternative means to receive compensation
- The victims may receive compensation from the State if their case continued excessively long (administrative procedure under the Judicial System Act).
- The victims may refer to the European Court of Human Rights on account of the lack of effective domestic remedies to claim all damages from the crime and to have the compensation awarded paid in practice.