Once a crime has been reported an investigation will commence. The Police will need to gather evidence and may need to speak to the victim and anyone who witnessed the crime. When speaking to victims and witnesses the Police may prepare a witness statement detailing the information provided to aid the investigation.
Once the Police have gathered their evidence they will then make a decision whether to charge the Offender with the crime. During this process the Police will seek guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that the charging threshold has been met. All charges will have been authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service.
It is important to remember that not all investigations are successful. There are investigations where offenders are not identified and therefore are not charged or there is insufficient evidence to charge the offender.
When an offender is charged the court process begins. This process involves:
- The Police
- The Crown Prosecution Service
- The Court Service
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime for Victims of Crime ensures that victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. The Code is designed to make it easier for victims to understand and access their rights. There is also the Witness Charter which sets out the standards of care you can expect if you are a witness to a crime or incident.
The Victims Code places statutory obligations on criminal justice agencies and lays down what they must do for victims and the timeframes to do it in. The Code is designed to guide victims through their criminal justice journey and offer information about what to do if they are unsatisfied or do not receive the services that they are entitled to. There are key entitlements under the Code some are below:
- Have information about the criminal justice system Be kept informed about the police investigation
- Be offered the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) explaining how the crime has affected you
- Receive information about Restorative Justice
- Receive support from organisations supporting victims of crime
- Be able to make a complaint if you do not receive the information and support you are entitled to
The legal system in England and Wales is complicated, particularly if you have never experienced it before. You will be supported throughout the process by the Police and the Victim and Witness Hub.
All criminal cases begin in a Magistrates Court where they are heard by magistrates. Some cases will remain in the Magistrates Court others will sent to the Crown Court. Where the case sits is dependent on the type or seriousness of the crime, with more serious cases heard by the Crown Court.
If the defendant (the offender) is under 18 the case will be heard in a youth court. All hearings in the youth court are not open to the public and have a less formal setting that adult courts.
The court process differs dependant on whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty then the matter can be dealt with without the need for a trial and it is a much quicker process. If the defendant pleads not guilty then the case will need to proceed to a trial.