Being a victim of crime can be a distressing and alarming experience.
The Code of Practice or 'Victims' Code', as it is more commonly known, was introduced by the government as a statutory document that criminal justice agencies such as the police and the courts must adhere to from the moment a crime is reported, through to the end of the trial.
Under the Victims' Code, support for victims of crime may include the following:
- A written acknowledgement that you have reported a crime, including the basic details of the offence;
- An enhanced service if you are a victim of serious crime, a persistently targeted victim or a vulnerable or intimidated victim;
- A needs assessment to help work out what support you need;
- Information on what to expect from the criminal justice system;
- Be referred to organisations supporting victims of crime;
- Be informed about the police investigation, such as if a suspect is arrested and charged and any bail conditions imposed;
- Make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) to explain how the crime affected you;
- Read your VPS aloud or have it read aloud on your behalf, subject to the views of the court, if a defendant is found guilty;
- Be informed if the suspect is to be prosecuted or not or given an out of court disposal;
- Seek a review of the police or CPS’s decision not to prosecute in accordance with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and CPS Victims’ Right to Review schemes;
- Be informed of the time, date and location and outcome of any court hearings;
- The ability to apply for special measures in court to help you give your best evidence if you are under 18 or an adult victim who is vulnerable or intimidated
- Arrange a court familiarisation visit and enter the court through a different entrance from the suspect and sit in a separate waiting area where possible;
- Meet the CPS advocate and ask him or her questions about the court process where circumstances permit;
- Be informed of any appeal against the offender’s conviction or sentence;
- To opt into the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS) if the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more for a specified violent or sexual offence;
- If you opt in to the VCS to:
- make a VPS for consideration by the Parole Board if the offender is considered for release or transfer and apply to the Parole Board to read it out at the hearing;
- make representations about the conditions attached to the offender’s licence on release and be informed about any licence conditions relating to you;
- The ability to apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme;
- Receive information about Restorative Justice which brings together the offender and the victim, giving the victim a chance to tell the offender what the real impact of their crime has been;
- Businesses are classed as victims under the Victims’ Code and are entitled to make a Business Impact Statement (ISB). The ISB can include; the cost of the crime, loss of earnings, impact on the staff (you will need to explain how the crime has affected the business or staff);
- Being able to make a complaint if you do not receive the information and services you are entitled to, and to receive a full response from the relevant service provider.
Getting help in Merseyside
A useful leaflet providing information for victims of crime in Merseyside can be found here.
The full Victims' Code and all supporting public information materials, such as an easy read guide, can be found on the Gov.uk website.
For young people, the Victims' Code for Under 18s has also been produced. This guide helps young people understand what to expect from the criminal justice system.
The video below gives a taster of this guide:
The EU Victims' Directive
Along with the 26 other member states, the UK will be bound by the obligations in the EU Victims Directive, which will establish minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime when it comes into force in 2015.
The directive aims to ensure that a victim of crime anywhere within the EU receives a minimum standard of support and protection. This covers a range of things, including information about criminal proceedings; the circumstances in which victims can access legal aid, interpretation and expenses; and measures to assist victims who give evidence in court.
The directive sets out support services that must be available to victims and, in some instances, to their families, in accordance with their needs and the harm caused by the crime.
The directive is expected to come into force in November 2015.