Victim Support – Your Journey
Reporting a Crime
You can report a crime to the police by visiting a police station, by telephone call or online. If you visit your local police services website online, the police should give you information about what to expect from the criminal justice system after reporting the crime.
You may be asked by the police to make a witness statement saying what happened during the crime. This will give details such as when the crime took place, and where and what you saw. Additionally, they may ask you to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) if you want to, explaining how the crime has affected you.
The police will ask you whether you would like all or part of your VPS to be read out or played (if recorded) in court if the case goes to trial and the suspect is found guilty. The court will make the final decision on whether the VPS is read out. If read out, this will be done after the verdict is given but before the court decides on the sentence. You can ask to read out the VPS yourself or ask somebody else to read it out for you. If you do not want your VPS to be read out in court, you do not have to choose this option. The court will still consider your VPS before deciding on the sentence. To find out further information, click on the link: https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/acr/after-you-report-a-crime/
It’s okay to feel unsure about this or worry about what will happen if you do. You might think that the police won’t care. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with the police in the past or heard bad reports. Or perhaps you’re worried that if you talk to the police, it will only make things worse, the Staffordshire Victim Gateway can support through this process.
An investigation conducted by police officers with a view to it being determined whether a person should be charged with an offence, or whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it.
Investigations may be carried out in relation to:
- crimes that have been committed
- identifying whether a crime has actually been committed, with a view to commencing criminal proceedings
- crimes that the police believe may be committed, for example, when premises or individuals are kept under observation for a period of time, with a view to the possible institution of criminal proceedings.
Report to the police, police investigation, and decision to charge.
There is no set time limit to an investigation. It may take days, weeks, months or longer.
The decision to charge is made mainly by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Crown Prosecution Service does not act for victims or the families of victims in the same way as solicitors act for their clients.
The decision to charge is considered by looking at:
Is there enough evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction?
If there isn’t enough evidence: then no charges will be brought against the Defendant, and criminal process ends for the offender.
This is called a discontinuance. You have a right to request that we review that decision under the Victims’ Right to Review scheme.
Under this scheme you can seek a review of the following CPS decisions:
- Not to charge
- To discontinue (or withdraw in the Magistrates’ Court) all charges thereby ending all proceedings.
- To offer no evidence in all proceedings.
- To leave all charges in the proceedings to “lie on file”
If you would like to ask for a review of #a qualifying decision, please contact the CPS office where the decision was made.
When you were notified of the decision you will have been provided with the e-mail address, telephone number and postal address of the relevant CPS office. If you do not have those details to hand, contact details can also be found on https://www.cps.gov.uk/contact/
You should (normally) submit your request within five working days from the date of the communication of the decision in order to ensure a prompt review.
Once a crime has been reported to the police, the investigation may lead to a suspect being charged for the crime. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will normally make the decision on whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to court, although in some cases the police will decide. If your case does not go to court, you should be told the reason for this decision by either the police or CPS.
You can ask for this decision to be reviewed if you are unhappy with it. This would be done through the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme. If your case does go to court, you may be a witness in the trial. If the suspect pleads not guilty, you will be allocated a Witness Care Officer or other point of contact who will keep you up to date about what’s happening in the trial and answer any questions you have.
You will usually hear from the Witness Care Officer once the suspect has been charged, and they will continue to support you until the case is over. They will let you know court dates and locations and whether the suspect has been released on bail or is being held in custody until the trial begins.
They may also be able to arrange a visit to the court before the day if you would like. Your ………….. or other point of contact, will consider what, if any, support you might need to attend court. This includes whether you could benefit from any Special Measures. Special Measures are a series of options that the court has to help give your best evidence.
Vulnerable or intimidated victims and witnesses can ask for Special Measures to be used during the trial to help them
give their best evidence in court. These
• Having screens around the witness
box or giving evidence by live
video-link so you do not have to
face the suspect or their family;
• Having the court case held in
private – with no press or public
• Having someone (an intermediary)
to help you to understand
questions when being interviewed.
You can ask your …………
or other point of contact for more
information. The court will make the
final decision on whether you can use
Special Measures during the trial, but
will take your views into account.
There are four types of sentence available to the courts, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. They are:
Discharge – this is when the court decides that given the character of the offender and the nature of the crime, punishment would not be appropriate. There are two types of discharge:
- Absolute discharge – no further action is taken, since either the offence was very minor, or the court considers that the experience has been enough of a deterrent. The offender will receive a criminal record.
- Conditional discharge – the offender is released and the offence registered on their criminal record. No further action is taken unless they commit a further offence within a time decided by the court (no more than three years).
Fines – the court can order that the offender pays a fine
Community sentences – these combine punishment with activities designed to change offenders’ behaviour and to make amends – sometimes directly to the victim of the crime.
Imprisonment – for the most serious offences the court may impose a prison sentence. The length of sentence is limited by the maximum penalty for that crime. The sentence imposed by the court represents the maximum amount of time that the offender will remain in custody.
If the person who committed the crime against you is caught, prosecuted and convicted you may be entitled to prepare a Victims Personal Statement (VPS), depending on the crime. The statement can be read to the court to illustrate the impact that this crime has had on you. This may help the court when it is considering the sentence to give the offender.
Criminal offences are categorised based upon their seriousness. There are three classifications, these are:
- Summary only offences.
- Either way offences and
- Indictable only offence.
Summary Only Offences
This type of offence can only be heard in the Magistrates court. Prosecutions in the Magistrate court are often dealt with a lot quicker.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, a summary offence will normally be listed for trial with 6-8 weeks of the first hearing.
A summary trial can last between one and several hours, and sometimes may be adjourned for the next day.
Either Way Offences
These offences can be tried in either the Magistrate court or the Crown Court. The magistrate court will make this decision at an allocation hearing.
If the defendant pleads not guilty and the case remains in the Magistrate Court, then the 6-8 week average will apply.
If the defendant pleads not guilty and the case is sent up to the Crown Court, then the judge in a plea and case management hearing will set a time table for trial.
Indictable Only Offences
This type of offence will be heard in the Crown Court. Although the defendant will make an initial appearance at the Magistrate court.
A plea and Case management hearing will be scheduled within 14-17 weeks of the defendant’s first appearance at the Magistrate Court, at this hearing the judge will set a timetable for the trial.
During the trial process, the defendant may be issued court bail, or remanded in custody. If bail is granted, the court can impose conditions such as a curfew, or non-contact with victims or witnesses.
Being called as a Prosecution Witness
As the victim of the crime, the prosecution may wish to call you as a prosecution witness. You may receive a summons from the court informing you of this. Please see our separate information on being a witness in court for further information on this.
Special Measures Direction for witnesses
Some victims are entitled to a special measures direction. Special measures are various methods used by the courts to help a witness achieve their best evidence for the court. The judge in the case will decide whether a special measure direction is necessary, and what method to use.
As a prosecution witness, the prosecution will ask you questions first – this is called Examination in Chief.
The defence advocate will then ask you questions – this is called Cross Examination.
Conviction and Sentence
Once the defendant has been found guilty or pleads guilty, usually a pre-sentencing report will be requested by the Court to be produced by the probation service. The probation service, usually makes a recommendation for sentence. The court can request a fast delivery pre-sentencing report which is usually available within hours, or the court may decide to adjourn for another day, whilst they await a full pre-sentencing report. This can take between 3-4 weeks depending if the defendant has been bailed post-conviction or remanded.
Magistrates and judges are responsible for deciding what sentence to impose on people found guilty of a crime. They have to take into account the following factors:
- The facts of the case
- Reducing crime
- Protecting the public
- Rehabilitating the offender
- Restorative justice – trying to repair the damage the crime has done to the victim and community
- Sentencing guidelines – these are guidelines set down by the Sentencing Council
- Circumstances of the offender – the Probation Service may need to produce a report about the offender.
Criminal offences have specific sentencing guidelines, not all of them are imprisonable offences.
You can read more about sentencing on the Sentencing Council’s website or watch the videos below.
Victim Contact Scheme
This is a special service for victims of sexual and/or violent crimes where the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more in prison. If you take part in the scheme, you will be given a Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) who will keep you up to date about what happens to the offender after they are found guilty.
You will also have the chance to give your views on any conditions you think should apply to the offender when they are released back into the community. This could include the offender being banned from visiting areas near where you live.
7 in 10 people who use our Victim Gateway service are happy with the outcome.