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The Victim’s Charter of the Crown Prosecution Service


Statement of Policy
Cases Involving Fatalities

The CPS is fully committed to taking all practicable steps to help victims through the often difficult experience of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
The Victim's Charter sets out the service which victims can expect from the CPS, police, courts, Witness Service and others. These commitments will help to ensure that victims are better informed both about their own case and the way in which the criminal justice system works. The Charter also tells victims how to proceed if they are not satisfied with any aspect of the way in which the CPS or any of the other agencies has dealt with their case.

1. Introduction

1.1 It is vital that victims of, and witnesses to, crime have faith in the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service ("CPS") is at the heart of that system and the manner in which the CPS treats victims and witnesses is extremely important.
1.2 The CPS is committed to upholding the principles set out in the Victim's Charter and the Citizen's Charter. We have made a public declaration of our principles in our Statement of Purpose and Values:
1.3 Making provision for the proper care and treatment of victims and witnesses is an essential feature of CPS initiatives.
1.4 This statement explains our policies about victims and witnesses and sets out how we intend to put our commitment into practice.

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2. Statement of Policy

The role of the Crown Prosecution Service
2.1 The CPS is an independent prosecuting authority. We take decisions about cases based on the strength of the evidence followed by an assessment of the public interest. This process is governed by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The CPS does not act directly on behalf of individual victims or represent them in court in criminal proceedings because it has to take decisions reflecting the overall public interest rather than the particular interests of any one person. Nevertheless, the interests of the victim are very important when we make decisions.

The decision to prosecute

2.2 The more serious a case is, the more likely it is that a prosecution will be required in the public interest. The Code for Crown Prosecutors specifically says the extent of the loss or the harm suffered by the victim should be judged according to the circumstances of the victim in question; what may not be significant to one victim may be very important to another. It is therefore important for us to know how the crime has affected the victim.

Information about victims and witnesses

2.3 When the police send a file to the CPS, it will contain some information about victims and witnesses. This information is important to the Crown Prosecutor because it allows the crime to be seen in context. The information could, for example, help us stop an unfair attack on a victim's or witness' character.

2.4 In many cases, victims may wish to claim compensation for the harm or loss they have suffered as a result of the crime. Where this is the case, the police should include details of the claim made in the file. If these details are not included, and the case is accepted by the CPS for prosecution, the Crown Prosecutor will ask the police to provide details or explain why they are not required. In cases where there is a claim for compensation, the Crown Prosecutor will tell the court.

Victims and witnesses at court
2.5 Victims of crime have a proper interest in the cases in which they are concerned. CPS staff will always try to help victims and witnesses at court by giving appropriate and useful information, although their other duties may constrain the extent to which this is possible.
3 Service Standards
3.1 Victims and witnesses deserve consideration and understanding throughout the criminal trial process. Taking practical steps to improve the service provided to victims and witnesses is just as important as responding sympathetically to their concerns.
3.2 We are committed to consistent standards of service for the care and treatment of victims and witnesses.

Before trial
3.3 Before every trial, we will consider whether it is absolutely necessary to require the attendance of a witness. We recognise that witnesses who have to attend court often feel worried and concerned about what to expect. To help witnesses, we will:
o ask the court to set a date for trial which is as convenient as possible to witnesses;
o let the witness know what will happen in court, if appropriate with Victim Support;
o arrange assistance, with the police, for the elderly and disabled to get to court;
o ask for children to be allowed to give their evidence, if appropriate, by means of a television link.

At trial
3.4 Once the trial has started, we will:
o try to ensure that witnesses attend court only when they are required to give evidence, so that they are not kept waiting too long;
o introduce ourselves to witnesses, whenever possible;
o look after the interests of the witnesses as the trial progresses (for example, if the case is adjourned we will suggest to the court a new date as convenient as possible to witnesses);
o ask the court, when appropriate, to allow a witness to leave after giving evidence;
o explain the results of cases, whenever possible, to victims at court.

3.5 When the victim has been injured or lost money, we will:
o do all we can to ensure that the information given to us on compensation claims is sufficient for the court to make a compensation order, if it wishes;
o remind the court of its power to award compensation in cases where there is no financial loss;
o remind the court that it must give reasons where a compensation order is not made if the case is one in which an order may have been possible.

Defence mitigation
3.6 When defence mitigation contains unjust criticism of the character of the victim or witness, we will:
o tell the court that the mitigation is not accepted by the prosecution;
o invite the court, where necessary, to hear evidence on the issues raised by the defence.

Witness expenses
3.7 To ensure that witnesses are paid properly and quickly, we will:
o pay prosecution witnesses' expenses within five to ten working days of receiving the completed claim form
o try to make emergency arrangements. If a witness at court needs an advance payment to return home.

Appeals to the Court of Appeal from Crown Court
3.8 Victims are usually not required to attend court when the defendant appeals against conviction or sentence. To ensure that victims are kept in touch with progress of the appeal, we will:
o tell the police of the developments in the appeal to allow them to keep victims and their families informed;
o tell the police the result of the appeal to allow the victim or family to be informed quickly in cases where a person has died or where a sexual crime is alleged.

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Cases involving fatalities

3.9 The CPS recognises that cases which involve the death of the victim may cause considerable anguish to her relatives and friends. Therefore, we will:
o make sure a lawyer of appropriate experience deals with and looks after the case;
o be prepared to meet relatives of the victim to discuss the basis on which a decision was taken;
o ask the court to pay special attention to the listing of these cases.

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4. Conclusion

4.1 In publishing this statement, we hope we have shown you our commitment to the proper care and treatment of victims and witnesses. We shall keep this statement under continuous review.
4.2 The criminal justice system depends on victims and witnesses to ensure that cases are dealt with properly at court. We know that going to court may sometimes be a difficult experience. Having read this leaflet, we hope that you will feel less worried about the prospect of giving evidence. The CPS is committed to doing all it can to help.

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Page last updated on June 9, 2003