Being the victim of any criminal act can be a harrowing experience for an individual. The criminal justice system in England and Wales therefore provides victims of crime with certain legal rights and protection. These can be split into the following categories:
- services and information for victims of crime;
- the right to tell the court how the crime has affected you;
- the right to compensation.
Services and information for victims of crime
When a victim initially talks to the police or when their case goes to court, the victim has the right to:
- receive regular updates from the police about the case – this right should be for monthly updates at least and in many cases more regular updates;
- be informed of when the criminal is arrested, charges, bailed and sentenced;
- be kept separate, where possible, from the defendant’s family and friends during the court proceedings;
- get additional help if the victim is vulnerable or intimidated– this is termed special measures and can often include screens so that the victim does not have to see the defendant;
- get clear information about whether or not the victim qualifies for compensation;
- be told when the offender is to be released – this applies where the offender has been put in prison for more than a year for a sexual or violent offence.
There are full details of all of the rights of victims provided for by the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
The right to tell the court how the crime has affected you
Any victim of a crime is able to make a victim personal statement allowing them to tell each person involved in the case such as the police, the prosecutor and the court how the crime has affected them.
The police officer dealing with an individual case should ask the victim if they wish to make a victim personal statement. However, if they do not, the victim is within their rights to ask the police officer if they may make one.
A victim personal statement can often help the victim come to terms with what has happened to them, but it will also become part of the paperwork for the case. When the sentence is decided the judge or magistrate will take into consideration how the crime has affected the life of the victim.
The right to compensation
If an individual has been injured or the property of that individual has been damaged or stolen the individual may be able to claim for compensation in monetary terms from the person responsible for the damage.
If the individual guilty of the crime has been convicted, then a victim can seek compensation through a criminal court. To do this the victim must initially provide the police officer dealing with the case providing accurate details of the loss, injury or damage.
Alternatively, a victim can take the offender to a civil court claiming damages.
The main advantage of seeking a civil claim is that it is irrelevant whether the individual has been found guilty in the criminal courts – the civil court will still hear the case.
It will cost you money to pursue a civil claim, therefore you have to be sure you have a good chance of winning and you will have to weigh up the cost of bringing the claim against this.
If you wish to make a claim for compensation for being the victim of a crime you should try and keep track of the following things:
- any extra expenses such as medical bills or property repairs;
- any loss of earnings – this means wages or money you will have missed out on due to an inability to work;
- any receipts, estimates or other documents which may help your case.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) allows individuals who have been the victim of violent crime to make a claim for compensation through a central body.