What rights do I have if I have been the victim of a crime?

Victims of Crime

Being the victim of any kind of criminal act can be an extremely traumatic and harrowing experience for any individual. As a consequence of this the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales provides those individuals who have been the victims of crime with certain legal rights and protection. Furthermore the victim of a crime can often play an integral role in the conviction of the guilty individual – as a consequence of this it is imperative that the victim is provided with adequate legal protection.

What rights do I have if I have been the victim of a crime?

The rights that victims of crime have 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 following rights prescribed by law:

  • 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

  • The right to be informed of when the criminal is arrested, charges, bailed and sentenced

  • The right to be kept separate, where possible, from the defendant’s family and friends during the court proceedings

  • The right to get additional help if the victim is vulnerable or an intimidated victim – this is termed special measures and can often include screens so that the victim does not have to see the defendant

  • The right to get clear information about whether or not the victim qualifies for compensation

  • The right to be told when the offender is to be released – this applies in the situation where the offender has been put in prison for more than a year for a sexual or violent offence

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

There are full details of all of the rights of victims provided for by the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.  If you have been a victim of a crime and wish to know your full rights then you should ensure that you obtain a copy of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

The right to tell the court how the crime has affected you

Any individual who has been the victim of a crime is able to make a victim personal statement proving the victim with the ability to tell each person involved in the case such as the police, the prosecutor and the court how the crime has affected them.

Will the police always ask me if I want to make a victim personal statement?

The police officer which is dealing with an individual case should ask the victim as a matter of course if they wish to make a victim personal statement. However, if they do not then the victim is perfectly within their rights to ask the police officer if they may make one.

Is a victim personal statement the same as a witness statement?

A witness statement is simply a statement of what happened so it is therefore a different document than a victim personal statement which deals directly with the issue of how the crime has affected the individual.

What is the purpose of a victim personal statement?

A victim personal statement is an important document in that it 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 alongside the other pieces of evidence of the case.

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. In order to do this the victim must initially provide the police officer dealing with the case providing accurate details of the loss, injury or damage.

Is there an alternative than claiming through the criminal court?

A victim can alternatively take the offender to a civil court claiming damages.

What is the advantage of seeking a civil claim?

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.

What is the disadvantage of seeking a civil claim?

If you wish to pursue a claim in the civil courts it will cost you money to claim in this way. Therefore you have to be sure that you have a good chance of winning and you will have to weigh up the cost of bringing the claim against this.

If I have been the victim of a crime what issues should I keep track of for a claim for compensation?

If you wish to make a claim for compensation following 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) exists to enable individuals who have been the victim of violent crime to make a claim for compensation.