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Help for the Victims of Crime

Witness Care Units

Witness Care Units are the single point of contact for victims and witnesses, from charging a suspect with a crime to the end of the case. Your named witness care officer will be responsible for keeping you informed of the progress of the case and supporting you.

Find out more about Witness Care Units

Victim Support

Victim Support volunteers are specially trained to help you and give you practical advice. The police are required to refer all cases of burglary, theft, criminal damage, arson, assault, and racial harassment to Victim Support. If you don't want this to happen, tell the police officer dealing with your case.

Phone the Victim Support line: 0845 30 30 900

Visit the Victim Support Website

National Victims' Association

National Victims' Association provides advocacy, counselling and support services to the families of homicide victims.

Phone the National Victims' Association: 0191 423 2210

Visit the National Victims' Association Website


Magistrates and judges are responsible for deciding what sentence to impose on people found guilty of a crime. They have to take into account the following factors:

  1. The facts of the case
  2. Punishment
  3. Reducing crime
  4. Protecting the public
  5. Rehabilitating the offender
  6. Restorative justice – trying to repair the damage the crime has done to the victim and community
  7. Sentencing guidelines, these are guidelines set down by the Sentencing Advisory Panel and the Sentencing Guidelines Council
  8. Circumstances of the offender - the Probation Service may need to produce a report about the offender.

There are four types of sentence available to the courts, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. They are:

  1. Discharge – this is when the court decides that given the character of the offender and the nature of the crime, punishment would not be appropriate. There are two types of discharge:
    1. Absolute discharge - no further action is taken, since either the offence was very minor, or the court considers that the experience has been enough of a deterrent. The offender will receive a criminal record.
    2. Conditional discharge - the offender is released and the offence registered on their criminal record. No further action is taken unless they commit a further offence within a time decided by the court (no more than three years).
  2. Fines – the court can order that the offender pays a fine. The maximum fine allowed in a magistrates' court is £5000. Fines are unlimited in the Crown Court.
  3. Community sentences – these combine punishment with activities designed to change offenders' behaviour and to make amends - sometimes directly to the victim of the crime. These can include:
    1. Compulsory (unpaid) work
    2. Participation in specified activities
    3. Programmes aimed at changing offending behaviour
    4. Prohibition from certain activities
    5. Curfew (may involve electronic tagging)
    6. Exclusion from certain areas
    7. Residence at a particular place
    8. Mental health treatment
    9. Drug treatment and testing
    10. Alcohol treatment
    11. Supervision
    12. Attendance at a particular place
  4. Imprisonment - for the most serious offences the court may impose a prison sentence. The length of sentence is limited by the maximum penalty for that crime. The sentence imposed by the court represents the maximum amount of time that the offender will remain in custody.