Victims get clearer guidance on telling courts about impact of crime

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Clearer guidance to ensure victims of crime have the chance to speak in court about the impact offending has had on their lives has been published today.

Revised joint guidelines on Victim Personal Statements (VPS) is being made available to the police, prosecutors and others across the criminal justice system.

The VPS, which is read out in court as part of the sentencing process, allows victims to explain how they have been affected by crime in their own words. And as well as helping victims come to terms with what has happened, the VPS will be taken into account when passing sentence and deciding how much compensation to award.

Gregor McGill from the CPS said: “Too often victims can feel like they are an afterthought in the justice system but the Victim Personal Statement gives them a real chance to explain how they have suffered.

“In their own words they can say how their lives have been turned upside down and it is often the only time a judge, magistrate or offender will hear those details.

“The Victims’ Commissioner highlighted that a number of victims are still not being given the opportunity to provide a VPS.

“We hope this new guidance will support the justice system in helping more victims explain how they continue to live with a crime long after it has happened.”

A VPS goes beyond what is contained in a formal witness statement and can include details of the impact of the crime that would otherwise not be heard. These can include explaining how as a result of a crime the victim has not been able to sleep, is afraid to go out, if their relationship with a partner or children has deteriorated and if they have lost their job or working reduced hours with the resulting financial impact.

If a victim chooses to provide a VPS, they can either read it out in court before sentencing or request the prosecutor to do so on their behalf. Even if they do not want it read out, the written version will still be considered by the court.

The publication aims to provide a clear, step-by-step guide for the police and others in terms of letting victims know their rights to produce a VPS and supporting them through it. Data shows only 16.5 per cent of victims said they were given the opportunity to make one. It is hoped that the revised guidance will improve the quality of information being provided to victims about the VPS process and encouraging them to make one.

Notes to editors

  • The original VPS guidance for criminal justice professionals was published in 2013. This is the first time it has been revised and can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/victim-personal-statement
  • The joint guidelines have been developed in partnership between the College of Policing, CPS, HM Court and Tribunal Service, HM Prison and Probation Service Judicial Office, Ministry of Justice, National Police Chiefs Council and the Parole Board.
  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016/17 found that only 16.5 per cent of victims said they were given the opportunity to make one.
  • Gregor McGill Director of Legal Services at the CPS.

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