Victims of crime: Understanding the support you can expect
Am I entitled to support?
Being a victim of crime can be distressing. The impact of crime will vary, but many people benefit from receiving some support and information to help them cope and recover.
Victims First can provide free emotional and practical support to all victims and witnesses, as well as family members of victims. It is available across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes) and Oxfordshire and can provide help regardless of whether or not the crime has been reported to the police.
If you do decide to report to the police then there is a government document called the ‘Victims Code’ which details what support and information you should get from criminal justice agencies. These are organisations such as the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.
If you are a close relative of somebody who has been killed as a result of a crime you are also entitled to support under the ‘Victims Code’. Businesses or enterprises (such as charities) that are victims of crime are also covered.
Victims in special circumstances, for example children or victims of the most serious crimes, are entitled to extra support.
Telling the police about the crime
You can tell the police about a crime by phone (101 in a non emergency or 999 in an emergency), online or by going to a police station. The police should give you information on what will happen next and what support you should get.
You may be asked by the police to make a witness statement describing what happened during the crime. This will give details such as when the crime took place, and where and what you saw. As well as this, you can choose to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS), explaining how the crime has affected you.
Victim Personal Statement (VPS)
Making a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) gives you a voice in the criminal justice process. The VPS lets you explain in your own words how a crime has affected you physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way.
Making a VPS is your choice. You do not have to make one if you do not want to but if you do choose to make a VPS, it can be written or recorded.
If you choose not to make a VPS when first offered the chance, you may do so later providing it is before the case comes to court. However, you should be aware that some cases are brought to court very quickly.
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 take place 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.
Owain’s son died when hit by a dangerous driver. He said:
“My wife and I made a Victim Personal Statement because we lost our only son and we wanted the offender to be aware of what this meant. My wife and I sat in court throughout the hearing and on the sentence day the judge read out a line from our VPS. The judge said he had read our VPS but, because many of our family were present, he would not upset us further by reading it all out aloud. The judge also acknowledged how our family was angry that the defendant had not apologised to us. Making the VPS did not bring our boy back to us but we felt we had a voice in court.”
Impact Statement for Business
All businesses or enterprises (such as charities) that are victims of crime are entitled to make an Impact Statement explaining how the crime has affected the business.
This statement should be sent to the police.
Making an Impact Statement does not prevent an individual victim from making a separate Victim Personal Statement.
Keeping you informed
The police should keep you informed as progress is made in the investigation and will let you know if any arrests are made and if suspects are charged. You can agree with the police how often you would like to hear from them about the investigation.
Victims’ Right to Review Scheme
If a decision has been made by Thames Valley Police to not prosecute a suspect or not to refer the case to CPS you may have the right to request an impartial review of that decision.
You can also make a request for a review if the decision not to charge a suspect/ proceed with a case has been made by the CPS.
You can find more information and how to make a request to either Thames Valley Police or the CPS on the Thames Valley Police website
Going to court
If your case goes to court, you may be a witness in the trial.
If the suspect pleads not guilty, you will be allocated a Witness Care Officer who will keep you up to date about what’s happening in the trial and answer any questions you have.
The Witness Care Officer we contact you once the suspect has been charged, and they will continue to keep you informed until the case is over.
They will let you know court dates, locations and whether the suspect has been released on bail or is being held in custody until the trial. They may also be able to arrange a visit to the court before the trial if you would like.
Your Witness Care Officer will consider what, if any, support you might need to attend court. This includes whether you could benefit from any Special Measures.
Vulnerable or intimidated victims and witnesses can ask for Special Measures to be used during the trial to help them give evidence in court. These measures include:
- Having screens around the witness box or giving evidence by live video-link (ie. from a different location) so you do not have to face the suspect or their family;
- Having the court case held in private – with no press or public allowed;
- Having someone (an intermediary) to help you to understand questions when being interviewed.
You can ask your Witness Care Officer for more information. The court will make the final decision on whether you can make use of any of the Special Measures during the trial, but it will take your views into account.
Julia was a victim of rape and benefited from using Special Measures when giving evidence.
“I could not have faced going into court and seeing the offender and his family who thought I was making it all up. They offered to let me go into court behind a screen, but I said “No, I don’t want to go into court at all”. The judge allowed me to give evidence from a separate room by video-link and a lady stayed with me while I answered the lawyers’ questions. Special Measures meant I could go to court and say what happened safely.”
You can watch the trial in court:
- After you give your evidence or
- If you do not have to give evidence (you should tell the court you will be there).
If you are a witness and will give evidence you should be able to:
- Where possible, meet the prosecutor and ask about the trial. The prosecutor tries to prove that the suspect did the crime
- Wait in a different place from the suspect and their friends or family where possible
- Have any special support the court thinks will help you give evidence
- Speak to someone who can tell you what will happen in the trial
If you are a vulnerable or threatened witness:
- You can ask the Witness Care Unit for extra help to make you feel safe when you give evidence.
The court will decide if you can
- Have screens so you cannot see the suspect or their family
- Be in the building but use a video link to talk to the court
- Ask the judge and lawyers not to wear their wigs and gowns
- Ask the public to leave the court
- Have a trial without the public or newspaper reporters, this is only for very serious cases
- Have someone to help you understand the questions and give your evidence.
“No, I don’t want to go into court at all. The judge allowed me to give evidence from a separate room by video link and a lady stayed with me while I amswered the lawyers questions. Special measures mean’t I could go to court and say what happened safely.”
If the suspect is found guilty, your Witness Care Officer should let you know what sentence the offender has been given and will explain what this means.
If the offender is allowed to appeal against the sentence or conviction, you should be told when and where the appeal hearing will take place and the outcome of the appeal.
“The offender was found guilty and went to prison, but it took one month before he was sentenced. The sentence was confusing to me but my witness care officer was great at explaining what it meant.”
After the trial
You may find the conclusion of the trial distressing and have mixed emotions. Remember you can still access support from a organisation that specialises in helping victims of crime. Contact Victims First if you need further support
As a victim of crime, you may be able to take part in Restorative Justice.
This is when those harmed by a crime (the victim or the family of a victim) wish to meet, or have another form of contact with the person responsible for the crime (the offender). There are many different reasons why people may want to do this and this would be discussed thoroughly with you beforehand. This is voluntary and both sides need to agree for any contact to take place.
Restorative Justice can be effective in making the offender understand the real impact of their actions on those harmed. The victim may also have the chance to influence how an offender might repair some of the harm caused by their actions.
Gary attended a Restorative Justice conference with the offender who had mugged him.
“At first it felt strange and awkward to be so close to the offender. The officer who was there was a big help and gave everyone a chance to speak. My family and I talked about how we were affected and so did the guy who mugged me. As he explained what happened and why- basically it was down to drugs, drugs, drugs - our anger went away. We all signed an agreement at the end, which included suggestions and changes that would improve the life of the offender and, hopefully, stop him committing more crimes in future. I am glad we attended the conference. The great thing about it was that the offender got to hear what it was like for me and was very sorry. We, too, got to see into his life and understood better what had driven him to crime.”
Victim Contact Scheme
This is a 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.
Unwanted prisoner contact
If you receive unwanted contact in any form from a prisoner you can report it to your Victim Liaison Officer if you have one, or contact:
National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Victim Helpline
Telephone: 0300 060 6699
Some prisoners are released from prison ‘on licence’. This means that although they are not serving their sentence in prison they are still required to adhere to certain conditions during the remaining part of their sentence in the community. Time spent ‘on licence’ in the community is supervised by the Probation Service.
If you receive unwanted contact from an offender who is on licence in the community, you can contact your local probation trust, the police or Victim Liaison Officer if you have one.
If the offender is under 18 and being supervised by the Youth Offending Team, you can contact the local Youth Offending Team to report any unwanted contact.
If you have been a victim of a violent offence, you may be eligible for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
To find out more, visit: www.gov.uk/claim-compensation-criminal-injury or call CICA on
To find out if you are eligible for payment for having suffered immediate financial hardship contact
If you need assistance with making a claim please contact Victims First on 0300 1234 148
Making a complaint
You are entitled to be treated in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner by all the organisations that provide support and services to victims under the Code. Where this is not the case or where the services you are entitled have not been provided, you have the right to complain.
Complaints should be dealt with using the relevant organisation’s internal complaints service. You should receive either an acknowledgement or full response to your complaint within ten working days of the service provider receiving your complaint.
If you are unhappy with the response you receive, you can make a complaint via your MP to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
More information on how to do this can be found online.