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Victims' rights - by country

England och Wales

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England och Wales

How do I report a crime?

She should in the first instance report a crime to the police. Information about how to do so is available here: reporting a crime

How do I find out what’s happening with the case?

If you are a victim of crime you are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you within 5 working days of a suspect being:

  • arrested;
  • interviewed under caution;
  • released without charge;
  • released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.

You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information within 5 working days of the police receiving it:

  • the date, time and location of the first court hearing;
  • where the suspect is released on police bail to appear in court, any bail conditions and any changes to these bail conditions.

Am I entitled to legal aid (during the investigation or trial)? Under what conditions?

Victims and witnesses are not parties to criminal proceedings and are therefore not eligible for legal aid in England and Wales.

Can I claim expenses (for taking part in the investigation/trial)? Under what conditions?

Service providers responsible for prosecuting an offence must have rules under which victims have the possibility of reimbursement of expenses incurred from attending court to give evidence.

More information on claiming expenses for witnesses are available here

And here

Can I appeal if my case is closed before going to court?

If you are dissatisfied with the police or CPS’s decision not to prosecute, you are entitled to seek a review of that decision in accordance with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and CPS Victims’ Right to Review schemes.

The CPS launched their Victims’ Right to Review Scheme on 5 June 2013. Police forces in England and Wales adopted a Victims’ Right to Review scheme on 1 April 2015. The schemes give victims of crime a right to request a review of a police or CPS decision not to prosecute, or otherwise to terminate criminal proceedings.

Where you are notified of a decision that qualifies for a review under either the NPCC or the CPS Scheme, you are entitled to receive sufficient information in the notification to enable you to decide whether or not you wish a review to take place.

Can I be involved in the trial?

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or defence.

What is my official role in the justice system? For example, am I or can I choose to be a: victim, witness, civil party or private prosecutor?

For the purposes of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (‘Victims’ Code), a “victim” is:

  • a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence.
  • a close relative (see glossary) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence.

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or defence. If you know one of the people involved in a case, you may be asked to provide evidence as a character witness, usually by the defence. In either event, your evidence can be crucial to securing the conviction or the acquittal of the defendant.

The right to bring private prosecutions is preserved by section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act (POA) 1985. There are, however, some limitations:

  • the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has power under section 6(2) POA 1985 to take over private prosecutions;
  • in some cases, the private prosecutor must seek the consent of the Attorney General or of the DPP before the commencement of proceedings.
More information is available here

What are my rights and obligations in this role?

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out the entitlements for victims. It is available here

If you have witnessed a criminal offence, but are not a victim, you can access services under the Witness Charter, rather than under this Code. It is available here

Can I make a statement during the trial or give evidence? Under what conditions?

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or defence. If you know one of the people involved in a case, you may be asked to provide evidence as a character witness, usually by the defence.

If you are a victim of crime a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) gives you an opportunity to explain in your own words how a crime has affected you, whether physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. This is different from a witness statement about what happened at the time, such as what you saw or heard.

The VPS gives you a voice in the criminal justice process. However you may not express your opinion on the sentence or punishment the suspect should receive as this is for the court to decide.

You are entitled to be offered the opportunity to make a VPS at the same time as giving a witness statement about what happened to the police about a crime.

If the defendant is found guilty, you are entitled to say whether you would like to have your VPS read aloud or played (where recorded), in court. You are also entitled to say whether you would like to read your VPS aloud yourself or to have it read aloud by someone else (for example, a family member or the CPS advocate). Before deciding whether you wish to have your VPS read aloud or played in court, you will be advised about the possible consequences, including that your VPS could be reported on in the media. You could also be asked questions about your VPS in court by the defence.

If you do request that your VPS is read aloud or played in court, it is for the court to decide whether and what sections of the VPS should be read aloud or played, and who will read it, taking into account your interests. In most cases some or all of your VPS will be read out or played, unless the court decides there are good reasons not to do so. You will be told of the court’s decision.

What information will I receive during the trial?

You are entitled to:

  • be informed of the outcome of any bail hearing (any relevant bail conditions and any relevant changes to these bail conditions) with reasons within 5 working days. If you are a victim of the most serious crime, persistently targeted or vulnerable or intimidated, you are entitled to receive this information within 1 working day;
  • be informed of the date, location and outcome of any criminal court hearings in the case by your Witness Care Unit. This information must be provided within 1 working day of the Witness Care Unit receiving it from the court;
  • be informed if an arrest warrant is issued for a suspect and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested. If a suspect is re-arrested after a warrant has been issued they normally attend court soon afterwards. This information must be provided within 5 working days of the Witness Care Unit receiving it from the court;
  • in cases where the suspect pleads not guilty, discuss any needs you may have with the Witness Care Unit and be referred to a relevant support group or agency where appropriate;

If you are a witness during the trial you are entitled to:

  • ask the court staff if you can enter the court building through a separate entrance from the suspect and their family and friends;
  • where circumstances permit, meet the CPS advocate or representative and ask him or her questions about the court process. They will indicate where possible how long you may have to wait before giving evidence;
  • wherever possible, receive an explanation from the CPS advocate or representative if there is a delay in proceedings on the day and how long the wait is likely to be;
  • wait and be seated in an area separate from the suspect and their family and friends - the court will ensure this is done wherever possible;
  • have any Special Measures set up for you where these have been ordered by the court;
  • be given a contact point at the court so you can find out what is happening in the case whilst it is being heard.

Will I be able to access court files?

Access to court documents is governed by Part 5 of the Civil Procedure Rules. Most likely the most relevant rules are 5.4C and 5.4D. These are available here

Last update: 21/09/2017

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