Skip to main content

Victims Commissioner

Volume 456: debated on Friday 2 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance he has issued to police authorities in England and Wales on the implementation of victim support strategies during investigations undertaken by police. (117808)

A variety of guidance documents have been issued to police authorities and forces in relation to support for victims.

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, which came into effect on 3 April 2006, places a number of statutory requirements on forces to support victims during an investigation. Under the Code, police forces are required to:

take all reasonable steps to identify vulnerable or intimidated victims;

provide victims with, information about the criminal justice system;

update victims within set timescales about key developments in the investigation;

inform victims if no further action is to be taken in relation to an investigation;

refer victims to Victim Support, unless they are victims of certain offences or ask the police not to pass on their details.

Victim Support and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have also put in place a joint protocol setting out the steps each will take to ensure that referrals take place and that they are compliant with the Data Protection Act 1988.

In April 2006 the Home Office also issued a Citizen Focus Policing Good Practice Guide, which set out good practice examples on all aspects of customer service including supporting victims.

ACPO have also introduced the Professionalising the Investigative Process (PIP). The PIP Core Investigative Doctrine provides definitive national advice for all investigators on the key principles of criminal investigation, irrespective of the nature or complexity of the investigation. The Victim and Witness Strategy section of the PIP Doctrine outlines the process for dealing with victims and witnesses during the investigative process and it also makes reference to the existing detailed guidance and best practice documents along with further sources of relevant information.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are used to establish the eligibility of a victim of crime for the enhanced service as set out in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. (117809)

Section 4 of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out the criteria for establishing if a victim is vulnerable or intimidated and, therefore, eligible for enhanced services under the code. It states:

4.1 Some services under this Code are to be provided only to vulnerable or intimidated victims based on the definitions given by sections 16 and 17 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. For the purposes of this Code, vulnerable and intimidated victims are defined as such at the time of the offence, rather than at the time of hearing as specified in the 1999 Act.

Vulnerable victims

4.2 For the purposes of the Code a victim of crime is eligible for an enhanced service under the Code:

(a) If under the age of 17 at the time of the offence; or

(b) If the service provider considers that the quality of evidence given by the victim is likely to be diminished by reason of any circumstances falling within 4.3.

4.3 The circumstances falling within this subsection are:

(a) That the victim

(i) suffers from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983,

(ii) otherwise has a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning;

(b) that the victim has a physical disability or is suffering from a physical disorder.

4.4 In determining whether a victim falls within the definition in paragraph 4.3 the service provider must consider any views expressed by the victim.

4.5 In this Section references to the quality of a victim's evidence are to its quality in terms of completeness, coherence and accuracy; and for this purpose “coherence” refers to a victim's ability in giving evidence to give answers which address the questions put to the victim and can be understood both individually and collectively.

Intimidated victims

4.6 For the purposes of the Code a victim of criminal conduct is eligible for an enhanced service under the Code if the service provider is satisfied that the quality of evidence given by the victim is likely to be diminished by reason of fear or distress on the part of the victim in connection with testifying in the proceedings.

4.7 In determining whether a victim falls within the definition in paragraph 4.6 the service provider must take into account, in particular:

(a) the nature and alleged circumstances of the offence to which the proceedings relate;

(b) the age of the victim;

(c) such of the following matters as appear to the service provider to be relevant, namely:

(i) the social and cultural background and ethnic origins of the victim,

(ii) the domestic and employment circumstances of the victim, and

(iii) any religious beliefs or political opinions of the victim;

(d) any behaviour towards the victim on the part of:

(i) the accused,

(ii) members of the family or associates of the accused, or

(iii) any other person who is likely to be an accused or a witness in the proceedings.

4.8 In determining whether a victim falls within the definition in paragraph 4.6, the service provider must in addition consider any views expressed by the victim.

4.9 The complainant in respect of a sexual offence or domestic abuse and the relatives of those who have died as a result of criminal conduct are eligible for an enhanced service under the Code unless the victim has informed the service provider of the victim's wish not to be so.

4.10 A victim's vulnerability may change during the course of an investigation due to health, intimidation or other reason. Service providers must give the victim the opportunity to be provided with an enhanced service if such a change in circumstance is brought to their attention.

4.11 All organisations with responsibilities under the Code should identify victims as vulnerable or intimidated as defined by this Code. Once the service provider has identified a victim as vulnerable or intimidated, that service provider must ensure that this information is passed on as necessary to other organisations with responsibilities in this Code.