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Crime and victims

Victims' rights

We're reforming the justice system so that the needs and rights of victims and witnesses are placed at the heart of what we do.

New rights for victims - the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

If you've been a victim of crime, the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out the services you can expect to receive from each of the criminal justice agencies, like the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. For the first time these agencies are required by law to provide details of the minimum standards of service that they will provide to you.

The Code, launched on 3 April 2006, will also ensure you are kept up-to-date on the progress of your case. You'll be told when someone is arrested for the crime, charged, bailed and sentenced. It also details the special services available for vulnerable and intimidated victims.

Some of the key requirements of the Code include: 

  • a right to information about the crime within specified time scales, including the right to be notified of any arrests and court cases
  • a dedicated family liaison police officer to be assigned to bereaved relatives
  • clear information from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) on eligibility for compensation
  • all victims to be told about Victim Support and either referred on to them or offered their service
  • an enhanced service for vulnerable or intimidated victims
  • the flexibility for victims to opt in or out of services to ensure they receive the level of service they want

The agencies bound by the Code of Practice are:

  • all police forces for police areas in England and Wales, the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police
  • Crown Prosecution Service
  • Her Majesty's Court Service
  • joint police/Crown Prosecution Service Witness Care Units
  • Parole Board
  • Prison Service
  • Local Probation Boards
  • Youth Offending Teams
  • Criminal Compensation Authority
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission

Making a complaint

It's important you are aware of your rights as a victim and that you challenge criminal justice agencies if you don't feel you are receiving good enough service.

If you don't think that you've had the level of support, information and advice set out in the Code, you can make a complaint to the agency involved. If you're not happy with the response you receive, you can then take your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman through your MP.

Details of how to complain, along with information on the services you can expect to receive from each agency are contained in the Guide to the Code of Practice for Victims.

Further background information about the Code of Practice and the criminal justice system more generally, is available at the Criminal Justice System Online website: www.cjsonline.gov.uk (new window)

Victims' rights to support

As a victim of a crime, you are entitled to free, confidential advice from a charity called Victim Support (new window). They aim to get in touch with you within four working days of you reporting a crime.

Victims' rights to privacy

For the purposes of investigating an offence or crime prevention, the police may release details of your case to the press.

They'll normally ask your permission before releasing details to the media and you should keep in mind that media coverage may uncover more evidence, such as eye witnesses.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, it’s a criminal offence for anyone to publish your name, photograph or other details which may identify you under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

A victim's right to privacy and the media's right to freedom of expression are both set out under the Human Rights Act 1988.

Victims' rights regarding offenders

Victims have rights to aid their physical, emotional and financial recovery following a crime. These include:

  • damages - regardless of whether an offender is convicted in the criminal courts, you’re entitled to start civil proceedings against them to recover losses
  • protection from offenders - if an offender has been imprisoned for over a year, you’ll be told when they’re released, and in cases of serious crime, you may be able to influence the terms of their parole (for example, to ensure they stay away from you)
  • preventing contact from offenders – if you receive unwanted contact from an offender, or if you’re concerned about an offenders' release, telephone the Prison Service Victim Helpline on 0845 7585 112

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