Victims' Right to Review Scheme
Last updated: December 2013
The CPS has launched a new initiative called the Victims' Right to Review Scheme which makes it easier for victims to seek a review of a CPS decision not to bring charges or to terminate proceedings. Please note that the scheme applies only in relation to qualifying decisions made on or after the 5 June 2013.
In 2011, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in the case of Killick (R v Christopher Killick  EWCA Crim 1608).
In the course of the judgment the Court considered in some detail the right of a victim of crime to seek a review of a CPS decision not to prosecute and concluded in clear terms that:
- Victims have a right to seek a review in such circumstances
- Victims should not have to seek recourse to judicial review
- The right to a review should be made the subject of a clearer procedure and guidance with time limits.
We have therefore launched a scheme which gives effect to the principles set out in Killick (and also Article 10 of the European Union Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime).
Victims will be able to seek a review of decisions not to charge, to discontinue or otherwise terminate proceedings.
When you are advised that a decision not to bring charges or a decision to stop the case has been made, you will be notified, in clear terms, of the right to request a review of that decision. You will be provided with information as to how to exercise the right.
The process is straightforward. In the first instance, you will be directed to the CPS Area or Central Casework Division that made the decision. The decision will be checked and a full explanation of the decision will be provided in cases where it has not been provided previously. In the event that you remain unhappy with the decision, and wish to pursue the matter, your case will be directed either to the Appeals and Review Unit or to the relevant Chief Crown Prosecutor (the Head of a local CPS Area) or Head of a Casework Division.
Then, in cases where a decision has been made not to charge or to discontinue proceedings, the Appeals and Review Unit will review the case, except where the case has been dealt with by a Central Casework Division, when it will be referred to the Head of Division to allocate a different prosecutor to review the case. Where the Reviewing Prosecutor considers the decision to be "wrong", consideration will be given to whether a charge should now be brought or whether proceedings ought to be re-instituted.
In proceedings which cannot be re-instituted because the CPS has offered no evidence to the Court and the defendant has been acquitted (and additionally in cases where the statutory time limit for bringing proceedings has passed), the matter will be reviewed by the relevant Chief Crown Prosecutor or Head of Division. In such cases, redress in appropriate instances is limited to an apology.
You will be notified of the outcome of the review.
The Victims' Code sets out enhanced entitlements for victims in the following groups because they are more likely to require enhanced support and services through the criminal justice process:
- Victims of the most serious crime
- Persistently targeted victims
- Vulnerable or intimidated victims.
If you are entitled to enhanced assistance under the Victims' Code, you will be offered a meeting at the end of the review process to discuss the outcome.
The revised Victims' Code came into effect on 10 December 2013.
In cases submitted to the CPS prior to that date the definition of victim, for the purposes of the Victims' Right to Review scheme, is as follows:
'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).'
This definition also includes:
- bereaved relatives or partners in homicide cases,
- parents where the primary victim is a child or youth under 18,
- police officers (who are victims of crime),
- and a family spokesperson, entitled to receive services under the Code, where the victim is incapacitated as a result of disability.
In cases submitted to the CPS on or after 10 December 2013, the definition of victim, for the purposes of the Victims' Right to Review scheme is as follows:
'A person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by criminal conduct'.
Criminal conduct is behaviour constituting a criminal offence under the National Crime Recording Standard.
This definition includes:
- close relatives of a person whose death was directly caused by criminal conduct;
- parents or guardians where the main victim is a child or youth under 18;
- police officers who are victims of crime;
- family spokespersons of victims with a disability or who are so badly injured they cannot communicate; and
- Businesses, providing they give a named point of contact.
Under this scheme you can seek a review of the following CPS decisions:
- Not to charge
- To discontinue (or withdraw in the Magistrates' Court) all charges
- Offer no evidence.
The following cases do not fall within the scope of the scheme:
- Cases where the police exercise their independent discretion not to investigate or not to investigate a case further (whether in consultation with the CPS or not) where a full file of evidence has not been provided with a view to the CPS taking a formal prosecution decision
- Cases where a single charge or charges are discontinued, but your case continues on another charge or charges
- Cases where a single charge or charges are substantially altered, but your case continues
- Cases which are concluded by way of out of court disposal
- Cases in which you request that proceedings are stopped.
Please note that the scheme applies only in relation to qualifying decisions made on or after the 5 June 2013.
Accessing the scheme
When you are notified that one of the three decisions listed above has been made, you will be told:
- The nature of the decision - i.e. not to charge, to discontinue the case or to offer no evidence
- Whether the decision was on evidential or public interest grounds
- How you can access further information about the decision should you wish to do so
- About the right to seek a review of the decision and how to exercise it.
We recognise that many victims who are dissatisfied with the decisions we have made will want someone to look at the problem as quickly as possible.
If you would like us to review a qualifying decision, please contact the CPS office where the decision was made (normally) within seven calendar days from the date of the communication of the decision in order to ensure a prompt review. However, the VRR scheme can be exercised for up to three months after the communication of the decision.
This will be CPS Direct (CPS Direct is the team responsible for making the majority of charging decisions) or your local CPS office or the office of the relevant Central Casework Division.
When you were notified of the decision you will have been provided with the e-mail address, telephone number and postal address of the relevant office. If you do not have those details to hand, contact details can also be found here.
Our preference is that you contact us by e-mail, but we are also happy for you to get in touch with us by telephone or letter.
It is possible that we might be able to resolve the issue at this stage. If we are able to do so then we will. If not, we will either:
- Contact you with further information about the decision or
- Pass the case directly for review.
If we provide you with further information about the decision we will ask you to confirm whether you would still like us to review the decision. We will provide details of the office to contact and ask that you do so within 14 days.
If we pass the case directly on for review then we will let you know that we have done so. You need not take any action.
Where we have not been able to resolve the issue locally, the decision will be fully reviewed.
The review will comprise a reconsideration of the evidence and public interest i.e. the reviewing prosecutor will approach the case afresh to determine whether the original decision was right or wrong.
We will contact you with the outcome of the review.
If you are entitled to enhanced assistance under the Victims' Code, you will be offered a meeting to discuss the outcome.
The qualifying decision will be communicated to you promptly in accordance with the time limits set out in the Victims' Code.
You should (normally) contact us within seven (7) days from the date of the communication of the decision, to advise us that you would like us to review the decision. However, the VRR scheme can be exercised for up to three months after the communication of the decision.
Any action taken to provide a local resolution will be completed within 14 days.
If we have provided a further explanation of the decision, you then have 14 days to let us know whether you are satisfied with the explanation given or whether you would like to proceed to a review of the case.
Cases where no additional explanation is required will be sent directly to the Appeals and Review Unit and you need take no action at this stage.
We will, wherever possible, complete the review and communicate the outcome to you within an overall timeframe of 42 days (i.e. six weeks).
Where the case is particularly complex or sensitive, it is likely that it will not be possible to provide the outcome within the usual time limits. If this happens, we will tell you and will send you regular updates (although not more frequently than every 28 days) until the outcome is decided.
In the first instance, please contact the office where the qualifying decision was made. The details will have been provided to you when we told you that the decision had been made. If you do not have those details to hand, please visit this website's Contacts section.
More detailed guidance can be found in the interim guidance on VRR. The public consultation exercise re: the scheme has now closed and we are currently reviewing the responses we have received. We are yet to determine the date on which the final VRR guidelines will be published. In the meantime, and until the final scheme is published, the interim guidance will apply.