Here you will find information about your entitlements as a victim of crime in Essex. Where you have reported your crime to the police, you will find out what you can expect from the criminal justice system. Whether you have reported your crime to police or not, this site will provide information on where you can go for any additional help and support. The information in this section relates to the Ministry of Justice's Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. For a full version of the Victims' Code please visit; www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime
The Victim Personal Statement (VPS): The Victims’ Code entitles victims of crime to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS). The VPS helps give victims a voice in the criminal justice process. In your VPS you can tell the court how the offence has affected you or your family. You can choose to read your statement aloud in court or have it read out on your behalf if the defendant is found guilty. To find out more, visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/victim-personal-statement
If you are required to go to court: Once a crime has been reported to the police, the investigation may lead to a suspect being charged for the crime. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will normally make the decision on whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to court. If your case does not go to court, you should be told the reason for this decision by either the police or CPS. You can ask for this decision to be reviewed if you are unhappy with it. This would be done through the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme. More information about this scheme is available from the CPS; www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/victims_right_to_review/index.html.
If your case does go to court, you may be a witness in the trial. If the suspect pleads not guilty, you will be allocated a Witness Care Officer or other point of contact who will keep you up to date about what’s happening in the trial and answer any questions you have. You will usually hear from the Witness Care Officer once the suspect has been charged, and they will continue to support you until the case is over. They will let you know court dates and locations and whether the suspect has been released on bail or is being held in custody until the trial begins. They may also be able to arrange a visit to the court before the day if you would like. Your Witness Care Officer or other point of contact, will consider what, if any, support you might need to attend court. This includes whether you could benefit from any Special Measures. Special Measures are a series of options that the court has to help give your best evidence.
If you are a victim of the crime and appearing in court as a witness, you are entitled to:
• Where circumstances permit, meet the prosecutor who is presenting the case in court to ask about what to expect and how long you might have to wait before giving evidence;
• Ask court staff if you can wait in an area away from the suspect and their family and friends;
• Have any Special Measures set up for you where these have been ordered by the court; and
• Be introduced to someone at the court who can answer your questions about what is happening in the case during the trial.
There is a DVD called ‘Going to Court – A Step by Step Guide to Being A Witness’ which is available at www.gov.uk/going-tocourt-victim-witness.
If you are giving evidence in court as a witness but are not the victim of the crime, the Witness Charter provides you with information about the support and services that are available to you. The Witness Charter is available from; www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-witness-charter-standards-of-care-for-witnesses-in-the-criminal-justice-system
Restorative Justice: 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) have contact with the person responsible for the crime (the offender) to try to find a way forward. This is voluntary and both sides need to agree for the contact to take place. Restorative Justice can be effective in showing the offender the real impact of their actions by putting a face to their crime. It also gives the victim and/or family the chance to tell the offender how they feel about what has happened, ask for an apology and get answers to their questions. The victim may also have the chance to help decide what activity the offender can do to repair some of the damage done by their crime. In Essex restorative justice is offered by the Essex Restorative and Mediation Service, for more information visit www.essex.pcc.police.uk/priorities-for-essex/restorative-justice/
Compensation: 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 0300 003 3601.
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 to are not provided, you have the right to complain. Complaints should be dealt with quickly and properly by the 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 at www.ombudsman.org.uk.
Further information: If you are not a resident in Essex you can use the national Victims’ Information Service to find more detailed information about support and services for victims at: www.victimsinformationservice.org.uk or phone 0808 168 9293.
Citizens Advice can help with financial problems or advice, legal issues or other practical problems. To find out more, visit: www.adviceguide.org.uk or call 03444 111 444.