A Lawyer's View

 District Crown Prosecutor James Scott explains the impact of a crime on him and his family and the support the CPS can offer:

 Ive always been acutely aware of the sensitivities felt by vulnerable victims but this was brought home to me when a close relative became a victim herself and expressed the same feelings I read out in court from others.

She was a widow and was at home alone when someone sneaked in and took her handbag from the kitchen. She didnt know it had gone until the next time she was looking for it.

When the bag was found a few days later she threw it away. She felt violated and distressed. This was some years ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday.

I, along with the wider CPS, understand the serious nature of crimes against older people. Safety and security, and the right to live free from the fear of crime, are fundamental human rights and go to the core of older peoples priorities. Feeling and being unsafe, or at risk, have significant negative impacts on older peoples health and sense of well-being and can leave them isolated and unable to participate socially and economically in their communities.

I saw the impact this crime had on my relative and know first hand how damaging this can be.

Such cases will be prosecuted vigorously wherever the evidence is available. We will work hard with the police and other agencies to ensure every possible support is given to enable older victims to assist in a prosecution and whenever a case goes to court we will argue that the fact that the suspect preyed on an older person due to their perceived age or visible frailty is an aggravating element to the crime, and one that should be reflected in the sentence.

A Victim's View

A 60 year old woman who was subjected to intimidation and theft by her late husband's carer said:

"When I realised what was going on I was upset and felt foolish for putting my trust in someone. I didn't think I would be taken seriously as my concerns might have seemed minor to some.

"When I did report my concerns I found that I was taken very seriously and my case was handled with great sensitivity. The service I have received has been absolutely marvellous.

"The CPS and the police kept me up to date throughout and knowing I was in their hands has made me feel safe again.

"My grandchildren (aged 12 and 14) were so impressed they even used their spending money to buy chocolates to say thank you to all of the people who have worked on my case.

"Because of those people I feel safer. It's not an easy job but they are fantastic and I don't know where we would be without them.

"I would advise anyone who believes they are a victim of crime to contact the police and work with the police and CPS to ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

Victims and Witnesses

Witness Care Units

Dedicated Witness Care Units (WCUs) have been set up across Yorkshire and Humberside to provide practical help and moral support to victims and witnesses.

The Units provide:

  • Witness Care Officers who act as a single point of contact for a victim or witness thoughout the life of a case from the point of charge through any court proceedings that may follow. They will help individuals through the criminal justice process and coordinate support and services.
  • A full 'needs assessment' to identify exactly what help victims and witnesses require to ensure they can attend court. This could include practical difficulties such as provision of child care, transport, help with language difficulties, medical problems and areas of concern, including possible intimidation
  • Continuous review of victim and witness needs throughout the case by the CPS and police
  • Greater communication and contact with witnesses about cases including the case outcome or trial result.

By providing better information, reassurance and support victims and witnesses will be more confident and willing to attend court, which in turn should reduce ineffective trials, help to bring offenders to justice and improve public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Victim Personal Statements

What are they?

Victim Personal Statements are optional written statements which give the victim an opportunity to say how they have been affected by the crime: physically, emotionally or financially.

They may wish to talk about their fear of intimidation, concerns about bail and whether they would like help from a support agency.

Victim Personal Statements provide additional information to that given by the victim in their statement to the police.

Who can make a Victim Personal Statement?

Anyone who has been a victim of crime and who has made a statement to police has the opportunity to give a Victim Personal Statement. The development of the Witness Care Units is helping to ensure that 100% of victims are now offered the opportunity to provide a statement should they wish to.

What happens once a Victim Personal Statement has been taken?

The Victim Personal Statement becomes part of the case papers and is seen by the Police, defence lawyers, magistrates and judges at court.

What does the CPS do with the Victim Personal Statement?

We take into account what the victim says when we make decisions on the case and ensure that, where appropriate, the court is aware of the contents of the statement so this can be considered, for example, in sentencing.

Special Measures

In some cases people require special measures to be taken to help them give evidence. Special Measures can sometimes be available to victims and witnesses that are vulnerable or intimidated.

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime defines vulnerable victims as those under 17 years of age or those with a physical or mental disability or disorder, including learning difficulties, whose quality of evidence is likely to be reduced if the special measures are not taken.  The victims of domestic violence and the family of murder and manslaughter victims are also classed as vulnerable.

Intimidated victims also qualify for special measures and these are defined as people whose evidence will be hindered by being in fear of the defendant or who are in distress about giving evidence.

Case Studies of Special Measures in Action

South Yorkshire

A vulnerable and intimidated victim fled South Yorkshire to a place where they felt safe from the defendant. However as a key witness in the case their evidence was crucial in securing a conviction. The CPS arranged for the victim to give evidence live on camera from another part of the country.  This was broadcast in court and formed a significant part of the prosecution case. The defendant was found guilty, thanks in large part to the quality of the evidence given by this brave individual.

West Yorkshire

CPS West Yorkshire successfully applied for Special Measures in a case involving serious  offences against an elderly and vulnerable complainant recently.

The 87 year old victim was bedbound and therefore unable to attend court to give vital evidence.  In the first such application of its kind, CPS West Yorkshire arranged for her to give evidence via videolink to the court, from her bedside.

As a result of this indivdual's courage in reporting the crime and her immense bravery in being prepared to give evidence in this way, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Victim's Right to Review

If a Crown Prosecutor decides not to bring charges, discontinues proceedings or offers no evidence in a case, you have a right to request that we review that decision under the Victims Right to Review scheme.  Details of how to request such a review can be found on the main CPS website.

To exercise your right to request a review please go to our contacts page.

Please note that the scheme applies only in relation to qualifying decisions made on or after 5 June 2013.