If you report a crime to the police you can expect:
- The police to investigate the crime.
- In most cases, to be contacted by Victim Support - unless you ask the police not to pass on your details.*
- To be told by the police if someone is charged with, or cautioned for, the offence.
- To be told (if you ask to be) by the police or the Crown Prosecution Service if the charge is later dropped or downgraded.
- If you are needed as a witness, to be given a 'Witness in Court' leaflet, and told the date of the trial.
- If the case goes to court, consideration to be given to making a compensation order in your favour.
- To be told (if you ask to be) the result of the court case. In more serious cases, to be told (if you ask to be) the result of any appeal against conviction or sentence.
- To be given advice about applying for compensation for personal injury from the criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
- To be given crime prevention advice if you ask for it.
* Not all categories of crime are routinely referred to Victim Support by the police
To help make this possible, you should:
- Report the crime to the police promptly.
- Give the police full details of your injury or loss.
- Tell the police if you want compensation.
- Tell the police if you fear for your (or your family's) safety.
- Tell the police if you do not want them to tell Victim Support or the press.
- Tell the police of any changes of address while the case remains unresolved and contact Victim Support direct if you want to.
What happens next?
The police will try to catch the criminal but they may not always succeed. If they do have a suspect, there may not be enough evidence to charge the person. Or, if the person is young or mentally disordered, and the offence is not too serious, the police may decide to caution him or her instead. In some cases the suspect may be facing more serious charges for other offences and may be prosecuted for those offences instead.
If the police decide to charge someone, the case is taken over by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS is an independent authority that prosecutes in the name of the Queen. They decide whether there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and whether prosecution would be in the public interest. The CPS does not act directly on behalf of individual victims or represent them in criminal proceedings. But it does carefully consider the interests of victims when deciding where the public interest lies.
The press can play an important role in tackling crime. For the purposes of investigating an offence, catching criminals or for crime prevention, the police may release details of a case to the press. If you are concerned about this happening, tell the police officer dealing with the case.
Going to court
For the reasons mentioned above, many cases never reach court. Of those that do, magistrates’ courts deal with the great majority. The most serious cases have to be sent to the Crown Court for trial by jury.
If your case goes to court and you are needed as a witness:
- You will be sent a copy of the leaflet 'Witness in Court', which will explain what is likely to happen.
- You should let the police know if there are any days you could not manage to attend court - for instance, because of important job or professional commitments, or because you have a holiday booked. If possible, these dates will then be avoided, although there may be times when the case has to go ahead even though this may not be convenient for individual witnesses.
- The aim is that prosecution witnesses do not have to wait more than two hours before being called to give evidence.
- Arrangements will be made to provide an interpreter if you are called to give evidence and are unable to give it in English.
- If you are not needed as a witness the police will try to keep you informed about hearing dates (there could be several such dates if, for example, cases are delayed or postponed). They will also try to keep you informed of the results of the cases.
Victim Support offer a free, confidential service to vistims of crime. Trained volunteers based in local schemes contact people following a crime to offer free, confidential support and information.
Victim Support is an independent national charity.
People are referred to Victim Support by the police and other organisations, or make direct contact themselves to ask for help.
For more information please visit the Victim Support website.