Being a victim of crime is a difficult and sometimes frightening matter. Crime can take many forms, and the effect that being a victim of crime will have will always vary not only on the offence committed but also from person to person.
Regardless of how you feel about being a victim of crime, the law and the justice system sets out to ensure that victims of crime are supported and are given rights.
What are my rights after being a victim of crime?
If you are a victim of crime you should report it to the police at the first opportunity. Once you have notified the police you have the right to receive a Crime Reference Number, and the right to be told which officer is dealing with your case.
At any point during the investigation of your crime you have the right to contact the police to find out how the investigation is going.
During the investigation you should receive monthly updates. You will also be notified in certain circumstances such as when someone is arrested or charged, or if a suspect is released.
Sometimes the police decide that they are unable to investigate a crime. In such circumstances you should be notified within five days of you reporting the incident and given a reason why the police will not be investigating the crime.
What happens if someone is charged?
Once a person is charged with a crime the evidence collected by the police is passed to lawyers to decide whether the case should go to court. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the government legal service responsible for prosecuting crimes in this country.
The CPS must look at the evidence and decide whether they believe there is a chance of a conviction, and whether it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.
Do I have any rights in court?
Sometimes victims of crime find themselves being asked to give evidence against the perpetrator of a crime in court to help secure a conviction. There is support available for victims of crime who are asked to go to court. If you are vulnerable due to feeling fear of the accused, or because of the nature of the crime, or because you are young, then there are ‘special measures’ available to help you in court.
Special measures include the use of screens, allowing you to give evidence from outside of court, or making a pre-recorded video of your evidence.
For young witnesses, the courtroom can be altered to make the environment less intimidating, such as by asking the lawyers and judges to remove their special clothing.
What is a victim statement?
A victim personal statement is your chance to notify the police and potentially a court about how you felt being the victim of crime. This is a personal statement detailing the effect the crime has had on you, which can be used by police in their investigation, and can be passed on to a judge when sentencing is decided.
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