This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Victims’ Code) is a statutory document which sets out the minimum level of services that victims of crime should receive from criminal justice agencies and other organisations in England and Wales.
It was last updated in 2015. A new version is being drafted. The Government consulted on a draft of the new code and has committed to publish a response soon.
What is a victim of crime?
The Victims’ Code defines a victim as anyone who has suffered harm (either physical, emotional or financial) as a result of a crime. Their families are also considered victims. The Victims’ Code only covers individual victims so businesses and organisations are excluded.
Witnesses are not covered by the Victims’ Code. Instead, the Witness Charter sets out how they should be treated during the criminal justice process.
How do I report a crime?
There are four ways to report a crime:
- Emergency calls: telephone 999 or a text phone is available on 18000.
- Non-emergency calls: telephone 101 or a text phone is available on 18001 101. There is a charge of 15p per call; free from a payphone.
- Online at your local police force’s website: See the complete list of force websites for links.
- In person at a police station: See the complete list of force websites to find your local station.
What happens once I have reported a crime?
The Victims’ Code provides a flow chart which shows what happens once a crime has been reported. There is also information at GOV.UK, After a crime: your rights. After reporting a crime, the victim should receive:
- Written confirmation of the crime
- A crime reference number
- Contact details for the police officer dealing with the case
- Information explaining what will happen next
- Information explaining how the victim will be updated
- A ‘needs assessment’ to find suitable support
- Contact by a victim support organisation, within 2 days
- The opportunity to write a ‘victim personal statement’
I have reported a crime, but the police are not investigating it. What can I do?
Police forces are operationally independent and decide which crimes to investigate based on their professional judgement and resource management. Police forces are not always able to investigate crimes reported to them. A common reason the police may not investigate a crime is lack of evidence.
Police officers should inform those who have reported a crime if they are launching an investigation. If they are not, the police should explain the reasons for this.
The police won’t tell me what is happening with their investigation. What can I do?
For the benefit of their investigation the police may decide to keep certain information from victims and witnesses. However, the police must update victims when certain ‘milestones’ are reached in an investigation.
The police must inform the victim within 5 days when a suspect is:
- Arrested or charged
- Set free or released on bail
- Given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice
If the police decide to drop the charge, they must also inform the victim within 5 days.
The police have decided not to charge the suspect in my case. What can I do?
As part of the Victims’ Code, eligible victims are entitled to request a police review of a charging decision.
Victims who are eligible to have a charging decision reviewed are:
- victims of the most serious crime
- persistently targeted victims
- vulnerable or intimidated victims
More detail is given in the Victims’ Code.
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidelines state that all forces should have a Victims’ Right to Review scheme. Constituents should look at force websites for information about individual schemes. Normally, the procedure involves a victim writing to a review team within the force.
The NPCC guidelines were due to be reviewed in 2017 but a newer version has not been made available online.
The CPS has decided not to proceed with my case. What can I do?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also operates a Victims’ Right to Review Scheme, relating to CPS decisions not to charge a suspect, or not to continue with a prosecution.
The definition of victim, in cases submitted to the CPS, differs before and after 10 December 2013. This is the date that a revised Victims’ Code came into effect.
In cases submitted before 10 December 2013 the definition of victim, for the purposes of the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme, is:
Any person who has made an allegation to the police, or had an allegation made on his or her behalf, that they have been directly subjected to criminal conduct under the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS).
In cases submitted on or after 10 December 2013 the definition of victim, for the purposes of the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme, is:
A person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by criminal conduct.
There is more information in the CPS guidance to the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme.
I am unhappy with how the police dealt with my crime report. What can I do?
Anyone who is unhappy with the conduct of the police can complain. Most police complaints are dealt with locally by the relevant police force. In England and Wales, the Independent Office of Police Conduct is the body which oversees the system of police complaints, investigates the most serious complaints and handles appeals.
The Library has provided information to help with casework involving police complaints in the Research Briefing Police complaints systems in the UK. The IOPC has published statutory guidance for police forces to help them handle complaints correctly.
Victims’ Code and Government material
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Victims’ Code) was published by the Government in October 2015. It sets out the entitlements of victims of crime and the duties placed on public sector bodies involved in the criminal justice system (including the police) to support victims.
The GOV.UK collection, The code of practice for victims of crime and supporting public information materials provides links to additional material for victims as well as to the Victims’ Code.
The GOV.UK page, Get support as a victim of crime lists free sources of help in England and Wales, provided by public services.
The Victims’ Commissioner is an independent office dedicated to promoting the interests of victims and witnesses. The Victims’ Commissioner advises government on how best to meet the needs of victims and witnesses.
Police and Crime Commissioners
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are responsible for commissioning victims’ services in their police force areas. The Ministry of Justice provides grant funding to PCCs for the provision of support to victims of crime in their areas, other than families bereaved by murder and manslaughter. The latter are supported by the National Homicide Service, which is run by Victim Support. PCCs provide support to other victims of crime, including serious and violent crime, in their areas.
There is more information about funding awards at the GOV.UK page, Victim and witness funding awards.
Most police forces have information on their websites about how they support victims and witnesses of crime. The POLICE.UK page provides a link to a list of force websites.
Charities and other organisations
Children and young adults
- Embrace CVoC (Child Victims of Crime)
- Lucy Faithfull Foundation (child sexual abuse)
- Tender (arts charity working with young people)
- Galop (supporting LGBT people)
- Men’s Advice Line
- Women’s Aid
- National Domestic Violence Helpline (run by Refuge and Women’s Aid)
Families of homicide victims
National Homicide Service (delivered by Victim Support with funding from Ministry of Justice)
- National Stalking Helpline (run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust)
- Paladin NSAS (National Stalking Advocacy Service)
- Suzy Lamplugh Trust
- Galop (supporting LGBT people)
- Rape Crisis England and Wales
- Survivors UK (male sexual abuse)
- The Survivors Trust
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.