Victims Code and Witness Charter
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Code for Victims) is the statutory code which sets out the minimum level of service victims should get from criminal justice agencies.
How does the Code for Victims work?
The Code for Victims applies to all criminal justice agencies, including the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts Service, and the Probation Service. The Code was established by Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 and came into effect in 2006. Victim Support lobbied for it to be introduced, and its establishment represented a huge step forward by giving victims of crime statutory rights for the first time.
The Code stipulates what each criminal justice agency must do for victims, and the timeframe in which they must do it. It tells victims exactly what they can expect from the criminal justice system, and allows them to hold the system to account if they don’t get the service to which they are entitled.
Key rights under the Code include:
- a section dedicated to children and young people under 18 and their parents and guardians;
- information about Restorative Justice and how victims can take part;
- an entitlement for businesses of all sizes to make an impact statement;
- an improved complaints process so that victims know who to contact and what to expect if things go wrong.
The measures in the new Code came into force in December 2013. The Victims’ Commissioner welcomes the new Code for a number of reasons:
- It sets out clearly defined entitlements for victims
- it is easy to read for people who may have had no previous experience of the criminal justice system and
- it is widely accessible via most of the criminal justice and government websites
The Witness Charter was revised to bring it in line with the Victims’ Code and best practice, especially in regard to raising awareness of the use of special measures by the police, CPS and the courts to support vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. The revised Charter published on 10 December alongside the launch of the Victims’ Code sets out the standards of care that all witnesses should expect to receive from allCJS agencies from the point of reporting a crime to the police to the court trial.