The new Code of Practice for Victims of Crime came into force on 10th December and aims to improve victims’ contact with the criminal justice agency, by providing them with the support and information they need.
Reporting a crime typically marks the start of a victim’s contact with the criminal justice system. From this point onwards, victims will often come into contact with a range of criminal justice agencies such as the police, courts and probation services.
The Victims’ Code is a statutory document which sets out the services and information victims of crime are entitled to from criminal justice agencies — like the police and courts — from the moment they report a crime to the end of the trial.
The new Code states that extra support should be given to three priority categories of victims — victims of the most serious crime, persistently targeted and vulnerable or intimidated victims. It also includes new sections aimed at businesses and young victims of crime.
For the first time, victims are now entitled to choose to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) and to read it out in court if the offender is found guilty. The VPS lets victims explain how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally or in any other way. The judge can then take this in to account when deciding on the sentence.
Under the new Victims’ Code, support for victims of crime includes being:
- kept informed about the police investigation into the crime including if a suspect is arrested and charged and any bail conditions given
- informed of what to expect if you need to give evidence in court and be able to discuss what help and support you might need with the Witness Care Unit
- able 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
- able to join the Victim Contact Scheme which means you’ll be told when an offender will be released, if they have been sentenced to a year or more in prison for a violent or sexual offence against you
- able to apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
- given 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
- able to complain if you do not receive what you should under the Code and have the right for your complaint to be handled properly and quickly
A full version of the Victims’ Code and shorter leaflet guides for adults and young people under 18 can be accessed on the GOV.UK website.