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Victims Rights

If you have been a victim of crime, you have the right to receive a specific level of information and support to help you to cope and recover and navigate your way through the criminal justice system. The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime helps to ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. The Code is designed to make it easier for victims to understand and access their rights. There is also a Witness Charter which sets out the standards of care you can expect if you are a witness to a crime or incident in England and Wales.

Victims' code

The Ministry of Justice published the revised Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in 2015; this details the information, services and support victims of crime can expect to receive at every stage of their journey through the criminal justice system.

The Code places statutory obligations on individual criminal justice agencies. It lays down what they must do for victims and the timeframe in which they must do it by. It guides victims through their criminal justice system journey and offers information about how they can hold the system to account if they are unsatisfied or do not receive the services to which they are entitled.

Under the Victims’ Code, some of the key entitlements include the right to:

  • information on what to expect from the criminal justice system;
  • be informed about the police investigation, such as if a suspect is arrested and charged, if they have been granted bail and any bail conditions imposed;
  • make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) to explain how the crime affected you;
  • receive information about Restorative Justice and how you can take part;
  • be referred to organisations who support victims of crime;
  • 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.

Useful links:

Victims' Code Leaflet
Code of Practice for Victims of Crime
Young Victims of Crime Leaflet

Witness Charter

The Witness Charter, which unlike the Victims’ Code does not impose statutory obligations, sets out the standards of care you can expect if you are a witness to a crime or incident in England and Wales. The Charter applies to all witnesses of crime and to character witnesses, however it excludes expert witnesses (police, doctors). The Witness Charter was revised to be brought in line with the Victims’ Code, notably to help raise awareness of the potential use of special measures.

Special measures are designed to provide additional support to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to reduce the stress and trauma of giving evidence and to help them give their best evidence.

Summary of key standards of care for witnesses:

  • You will be treated with dignity and respect at all times by each of the criminal justice agencies you have contact with;
  • The police will conduct an initial assessment of your needs. If you are required to give evidence in court, the Witness Care Unit, police or defence lawyer will offer you a full needs assessment where appropriate;
  • Applications for special measures should be made on your behalf to the court in good time and, if approved, should be available when you give your evidence in court;
  • Measures will be taken in court to ensure that it is a safe environment for all and to ensure that prosecution witnesses, defence witnesses and their family and friends wait in separate areas;
  • You can visit the court before the trial and will be shown around by the Witness Service, this is provided by Citizens Advice;
  • You can complain if you are unhappy about the level of service received from any criminal justice agency referred to in the Charter.

Useful links:

The Witness Charter

Support Services

If you have been the victim of crime you are entitled to practical help and emotional support to help you cope and recover. This help is available to all victims whether or not they report the crime to the police.

To access help and support that is right for you, put your postcode in the ‘Victims Choice’ website search bar and the support services in your area will be displayed. You can then read about what is available and which one offers the help you think you need. Importantly, you will also be able to see the reviews left by other victims who have used the service.

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