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Summary of the code of practice for victims of crime

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The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Criminal Justice System October 2005)

The Victims’ Code will come into full force in April 2006, when victims will have the right to appeal should they feel that any of the service providers have not delivered their obligations under the Victims’ Code. If dissatisfied with the response to their complaint, will be able to take their case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman via their MP.

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out the services victims can expect to receive from the criminal justice system including:  A right to information about their 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 under the Scheme.  All victims to be told about Victim Support and either referred on to them or offered their service.  An enhanced service in the cases of vulnerable or intimidated victims.  Flexibility with regard to opting in or out of receiving services to ensure victims receive the level of service they want.

Criminal justice bodies, including the Prison Service, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and all police forces in England and Wales will need to ensure that victims of crime and their families receive information, protection and support. The Government's current programme of work for victims also includes the establishment of Witness Care Units, a consultation on Victims' Advocates; the forthcoming Prosecutor's Pledge and the commitment to the appointment of a Victims Commissioner by April 2006. The Government aims to ensure that every victim, including relatives of people who have died as the result of a crime, has access to information on support services in their local area.

The code governs the service provided by organisations to victims of criminal conduct, under section 32 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

Some services of the code are only provided to vulnerable or intimidated victims (based upon the Youth Justice and Criminal Act 1999). In this code vulnerable and intimidated victims are defined as such at the time of the offence rather than at the time of hearing as is in the YJCA 1999.

Vulnerable victims Eligible for enhanced service under code: . If under 17 yrs of age at time of offence . If the service provider considers that the quality of evidence given by the victim is likely to be diminished by circumstance.

Circumstances: Victim suffers from mental disorder within meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983, otherwise has significant impairment of intelligence/social functioning. Victim has a physical disability or is suffering from a physical disorder.

Intimidated victims Eligible for enhanced service if service provider is satisfied that the quality of evidence given is likely to be diminished by reason of fear or distress in connection with testifying.

Considerations include: . Nature of alleged circumstances of offence. . Age of victim. . Social, cultural and ethnic origins . Religious beliefs or political opinions of the victim.

Obligation of service providers These obligations: crime reporting, assessment and victim support. Police ensure victim can access information about local support services and contact details, provided in a format or language victim can understand. Police (with consent) pass details onto victim support within 2 working days of allegation. Aggravating factors such as repeat victimisation, victim request, vulnerable victims or hate crime victims will ensure a referral to victim support.

Police to take reasonable steps to identify vulnerable or intimidated victims using criteria above.

Where vulnerable/intimidated victim may be called as a witness in criminal proceedings and eligible for special measures (YJCE 1999) police must explain the provision and record views of victim applying for special measures. Arrest & Bail Police must notify vulnerable and intimidated victims within 1 working day of a suspect being arrested. If released with no further action vulnerable and intimidated victims must know within 1 working day.

Any bail or changes in bail conditions, vulnerable and intimidated victims must be notified within 1 working day.

Responsibility of police to notify vulnerable and intimidated victims whether a charge will be carried forward within 1 working day.

Joint police/crown prosecution service/witness care units Obligated to: . Conduct full needs assessment with all victims where ‘not guilty’ plea is entered. . Provide copy of ‘witness in court’ leaflet or current equivalent to those victims called as witnesses in criminal proceedings. . Provide ‘young witness’ info pack to those victims under 17 years of age which crimes have involved sex, violence or cruelty. . Notify intimidated or vulnerable victims of outcome of pre-trial hearings and verdicts of trial no later than 1 working day after the day of receipt of decisions from the court. . Answer questions about meaning and effect of the outcome. . Notify of significant amendments within 1 working day. . If appeal against conviction victims must be notified within 1 working day, information re: Witness Service and referral unless they ask not to. . Inform of results of appeals. . Provide information re ‘National Probation Service Victim Conduct Scheme’ and refer info of victim to Probation Service (in cases where convicted of sexual or violent offence and given sentence of imprisonment or detention of 12 months or more).

Crown prosecution service Following obligations: . If decision is made that no further proceedings will take place then must inform vulnerable and intimidated victims within 1 day, the same if charge is reduced significantly for offender. . Where victim is called to be a witness in criminal proceedings and identified as intimidated or vulnerable, CPS must have system in place to ensure there is consideration for the application of special measures.

Her Majesty’s Courts Service Obligated to: . Ensure victims have, and are directed to a separate waiting area and a seat in the courtroom away from the defendant’s family or friends. . Ensure that victims who are witnesses do not have more than 2 hours before giving evidence in criminal proceedings.

Probation – National Offender Management Service Under Domestic, Crime and Victims Act 2004, they have responsibilities in relation to victims of offenders sentenced to 12months or more for a sexual or violent offence incl. Mentally disordered offenders. Responsible with providing victim with details of conditions on release, establish whether victim wishes to make representations as to what conditions offender should be subject to on release – pass these onto those responsible for making decision.

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