Advanced Search

Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

"Honour crimes" and forced marriage

What is a so-called 'honour' crime?

So-called 'honour based violence' is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.

'So-called Honour Crime' is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights.

There is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up 'violence in the name of so-called honour'.

The simplicity of the above definition is not intended in any way to minimise the levels of violence, harm and hurt caused by such acts.

(definition used by the Metropolitan Police Working Group on honour based violence)

What is a forced marriage?

In a forced marriage you are coerced into marrying someone against your will. You may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis.

It’s not the same as an arranged marriage where you have a choice as to whether to accept the arrangement or not. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time.

(Definition from the Foreign and Commonwealth office)

Both 'honour crimes' and forced marriage are forms of domestic violence.

Forced Marriage (civil protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25th November 2008

Recommendations on future work on forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crime

CPS pilot on forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ crime – findings

Policy for prosecuting domestic violence

Domestic Abuse

There is no specific statutory offence of 'domestic abuse'; however, the term can be applied to a number of offences committed in a domestic environment. It is a general term describing a range of controlling and coercive behaviours, used by one person to maintain control over another with whom they have, or have had, an intimate or family relationship.

The CPS regards these offences as being particularly serious. The domestic nature of the offending is seen as an aggravating factor because of the abuse of trust involved.

The most recent government definition of domestic abuse describes it as:

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality."

In this context, the term 'controlling behaviour' covers a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependant by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

'Coercive behaviour' means an act or a pattern of acts involving assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so-called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. It is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Such offences can include, but aren't limited to, the following types of abuse:

  1. psychological
  2. physical
  3. sexual
  4. financial
  5. emotional

Domestic abuse legislation

A specific offence of subjecting victims to 'controlling or coercive behaviour' came into force in 2015.

This type of abuse can include a pattern of threats such as humiliation and intimidation, or behaviour such as stopping a partner socialising; controlling their social media accounts; surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.

Controlling or coercive behaviour will cause a victim to fear that violence will be used against them on at least two occasions or to experience serious alarm or distress, which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

The CPS is working hard to ensure prosecutors are able to make effective decisions when prosecuting these cases. Measures taken include:

  • Developing and publishing legal guidance on this new offence;
  • Working with the College of Policing to provide training for police officers;
  • Collaborating with the police to update their evidence collection guidelines for relevant offences;
  • Collecting and distributing 'lessons learned' from the earliest cases prosecuted in January and February 2016;
  • Mandatory training for prosecutors incorporating lessons learnt from review of the initial prosecutions.

Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts (SDACs)

Some domestic abuse cases may be heard in Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts. These courts are held in existing magistrates' court buildings, but offer tailored support and advice for complainants. This can include specially trained magistrates, police officers and prosecutors. There may also be separate entrances, exits and waiting areas so that victims do not come into contact with defendants and/or their associates.

These SDACs are central to a holistic, multi-agency response to domestic abuse. They link criminal justice, statutory and voluntary sector services; working together to put victims and their safety at the heart of the Criminal Justice System and hold perpetrators to account.

Special Measures

The CPS recognises that giving evidence can be particularly traumatic for complainants of domestic abuse.

In all domestic abuse hearings, prosecutors may apply for 'special measures', which are designed to ease the stress for witnesses and allow them to give their best possible evidence. Special measures can include giving evidence behind a screen or by a remote video link and even preventing the media from publishing details which would identify a victim or witness.

Work of the CPS

The Crown Prosecution Service is working to find new and effective ways to prosecute domestic abuse cases. We are using innovative methods to identify evidence and present it at court. This includes exploiting technology such body worn video camera footage and recordings from 999 calls, where appropriate. A specially developed programme of training courses has been rolled-out to make sure all prosecution staff are up-to-date on these new approaches and developments.

The CPS is collaborating with partners across the criminal justice system; specialist organisations and victims of domestic abuse to identify areas of good practice and share 'lessons learned'. This exercise looks to make sure the CPS has the capacity and capability to handle domestic abuse cases in the most effective way, providing an adequate level of support to victims and looking for areas for continuing improvement.

Read more

You can read more about how the CPS deals with domestic abuse offences in our annual Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Report.