Week 7: Victim rights (present)

Old Bailey. Image: Flickr, Steve Calcott. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevec77/107868154

This week we explore the different stages of victim involvement in the criminal justice system in England and Wales (from reporting to conviction and appeal).

For the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales, take a look at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime

In summary, rights for victims in the criminal justice system include:

  • the right to be kept informed about your case by the police (at least monthly)
  • the right to hear when a suspect is arrested, charged, bailed or sentenced
  • the right to apply for extra help when giving evidence in court (called ‘special measures’) if you are vulnerable or intimidated
  • the right to 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.
  • the right to be referred to Victim Support.

(Victim Support, 2011)

Many police forces now have a policing pledge, to tell you what to expect from them. This is particularly important for victims, but applies to the general public too. The summary of Leicestershire’s Policing Pledge is below:

  • We will treat you fairly
  • Inform you about policing in your area
  • Respond to every message
  • Answer 999 calls in 10 seconds
  • Answer all non-emergency calls promptly
  • Arrange public meetings in your area
  • Provide monthly updates
  • Acknowledge when you are dissatisfied with the service you have received

Victims in the courtroom

In the UK we use the adversarial system. If you are not familiar with the court system in England and Wales, I recommend taking a look at the videos on http://victimology.louisegrove.com/courts/

  • Witness Service – talks victims and witnesses through what to expect, and meets them on the day
  • Extra support for vulnerable victims – such as video links or screens for young victims, and occasionally recorded evidence can be submitted. Measures are criticised for not being available or effective enough, and in contrast, for biasing a jury against the defendant and reducing the ability for the victim to be cross examined effectively.
  • Victim Personal Statements (VPS)

The purpose of a VPS is to:

  • give victims the opportunity to state how the crime has affected them – physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially or in any other way;
  • allow victims to express their concerns in relation to bail or the fear of intimidation by or on behalf of the defendant;
  • provide victims with a means by which they can state whether they require information about, for example, the progress of the case;
  • provide victims with the opportunity of stating whether or not they wish to claim compensation or request assistance from Victim Support or any other help agency;
  • provide the criminal justice agencies with a ready source of information on how the particular crime has affected the victim involved.

(Crown Prosecution Service, 2012)

This can sometimes cause confusion and upset, as some victims expect to have a much greater influence on sentencing than this permits them.

Restorative justice

Restorative processes bring those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.

(Restorative Justice Council, 2013)

[gdoc link=”https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-LCdretcfqus4kW7E2hQprBPQwakVB6280iJHinWhbw/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000″ size=”medium”]

You can also access the slides directly here

Relevant links:
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