Earlier this year B P Collins’ Victims’ Rights Legal Team commented on the news of the Government’s exploration into whether victims of crime should have their rights enshrined in law to put them at the heart of the criminal justice system (please see here for that article).
You may well be wondering, what protects victims of crime under the present legislation?
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales (“the Victims’ Code” or “the Code”) is a statutory code that sets out the minimum level of service that victims should receive from all branches of the criminal justice system; this includes (but is not limited to) the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Courts Service and the Probation Service.
The Code defines a victim of crime as a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence; or a close relative (or a nominated family spokesperson) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence. In this article, for the sake of brevity, I will simply refer to the “victim”.
Under the Code, victims have 12 overarching rights…
- To be able to understand and to be understood.
Victims have the right to be given information in a way that is easy to understand and to be provided with help to be understood, including, where necessary, access to interpretation and translation services.
- To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay.
Victims have the right to have the details of the crime recorded by the Police as soon as possible after the incident. If the victim is required to provide a witness statement or be interviewed, they have the right to be provided with additional support to assist them through this process.
- To be provided with information when reporting a crime.
Victims have the right to receive written confirmation when reporting a crime, to be provided with information about the criminal justice process and to be told about programmes or services for victims. This might include services where the victim can meet with the suspect or offender (restorative justice).
- To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs.
Victims have the right to be referred to services that support victims. This includes the right to contact the support service providers directly, and to have their needs assessed so services and support can be tailored to meet the victim’s needs. If eligible, the victim has the right to be offered a referral to specialist support services and to be told about additional support available at court, for example special measures.
- To be provided with information about compensation.
Where eligible, victims have the right to be told about how to claim compensation for any loss, damage or injury caused as a result of crime.
- To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution.
Victims have the right to be provided with updates on their case and to be told when important decisions are taken. Victims also have the right, at certain stages of the justice process, to ask for decisions to be reviewed by the relevant service provider.
- To make a Victim Personal Statement.
Victims have the right to make a Victim Personal Statement (“VPS”), which tells the court how the crime has affected the victim and is considered when sentencing the offender. It is the judge who passes sentence at the end of the trial and in most cases the judge will have discretion over the length of sentence. One of the first elements the judge must take into consideration when making this decision is the effect that the offence has had on the victim of the crime and the VPS will be reviewed.
- To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness.
If the victim’s case goes to court, the victim has the right to be told the time, date and location of any hearing and the outcome of those hearings in a timely way. If the victim is required to give evidence, they have the right to be offered appropriate help before the trial and, where possible, if the court allows, to meet with the prosecutor before giving evidence.
- To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals.
Victims have the right to be told the outcome of the case and, if the defendant is convicted, the victim has the right to have the sentence explained. If the offender appeals against their conviction or sentence, the victim has the right to be told about the appeal and its outcome
- To be paid expenses and have property returned.
If the victim is required to attend court and give evidence, they have the right to claim certain expenses. If any of the victim’s property was taken as evidence, they have the right to get it back as soon as possible.
- To be given information about the offender following a conviction.
Where eligible, the victim has the right to be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which will provide the victim with information about the offender and their progress in prison, and if or when they become eligible for consideration of parole or release. Where applicable, the victim also has the right to make a new VPS, in which you can say how the crime continues to affect them.
- To make a complaint about your rights, as a victim, not being met.
If the victim believes that they have not received their rights, the victim has the right to make a complaint to the relevant service provider. If the victim remains unhappy, they can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
B P Collins’ Victims’ Rights Team has extensive experience corresponding with the police, Witness Care Unit, and courts to ensure that our clients’ rights are observed. Whether you are processing the trauma of being a victim of crime and do not have the capacity to follow up with the progress of your case, or you are simply frustrated with the time-consuming challenges of dealing with the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system, our team is here to help and be of assistance. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01753 89995.