Press release

New set of rights for victims of crime

Updated Victims’ Code to simplify and boost support.

Victim's code: hands coming together
  • victims to be automatically referred to Victim Contact Scheme
  • new support for victims of mentally disordered offenders

Victims of crime will have clearer rights regarding the support they should receive from the police, courts and other criminal justice agencies as a new Victims’ Code is published today (5 March 2020).

A six-week consultation seeks views on a revised Code, which sets out the minimum level of information and service victims can expect from criminal justice agencies. It brings together 12 overarching rights that are clear, concise and easy to understand.

For the first time, eligible victims will be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which gives vital updates on offenders as they serve their sentence, including their potential release from prison.

The new Code will also give victims greater flexibility over when and how a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) can be made – recognising that for many the impact of the crime may not be immediately apparent. Victims will also be able to request a copy of their VPS for them to refer to in future.

Today’s consultation will pave the way for a Victims’ Law, which will underpin victims’ rights in legislation and further reinforce the support offered from the criminal justice system.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk MP said:

Simplifying the Victims’ Code is a vital step in our efforts to rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system.

It will make the process less daunting and provide victims with the information and support they need to recover from crime.

And we are going further to strengthen victims’ rights by bringing through a Victims’ Law to ensure they are supported at every stage of the justice system.

Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, says:

The Victims Code needs to deliver on what victims need, if they are to have confidence in the justice system and to feel positively engaged, all of which is essential if they are to cope with the impact of crime and recover from it.

But we can only get it right if we hear from victims themselves, using their own lived experience to inform us on what works and what doesn’t. Therefore I am calling on the government, the media and criminal justice agencies to do all they can to promote this consultation. In doing so, they can stimulate a national conversation on how society should treat victims of crime and give them the support they need.

Proposals set out in the new Code include:

  • Offering greater flexibility over when a Victim Personal Statement, which tells the court how the crime has affected the victim, can be made.
  • Simplifying and shortening the Code to make it clear, concise and easy to understand.
  • Changing the Victim Contact Scheme from an opt-in to automatic referral scheme.
  • New rights for victims of mentally disordered offenders, allowing them access to a Victim Liaison Officer to provide information on an offender’s management and potential release from hospital.
  • For the first time, the Code sets out the rights of victims of Foreign National Offenders to be updated on when an offender’s deportation may occur.
  • The new Code also includes practical information about how victims can access services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) and sign-post them to where they can get help and advice if they are approached by the media.

Notes to editors

  • The consultation on the new Victims’ Code will run from 5 March 2020 to 16 April 2020.
  • The Victims’ Code sets out the minimum level of service victims can expect from criminal justice agencies such as the police and courts, whether they choose to report the crime or not.
  • The new Code is structured so that it focuses on 12 overarching rights:
    • To be able to understand and to be understood.
    • To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay
    • To be provided with information when reporting the crime
    • To be referred to victim support services and have services and support tailored to your needs
    • To be provided with information about compensation
    • To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution
    • To make a Victim Personal Statement
    • To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness
    • To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals
    • To be paid expenses and have property returned
    • To be given information about the offender following a conviction
    • To make a complaint about rights not being met
  • A Victim Liaison Officer will tell you:
    • what the sentence of the court means in terms of their detention in prison or hospital, if there are any changes to their sentence, and when they’ll be
    • transferred to open conditions or considered for release or conditional discharge; 
    • how to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) if an offender’s case is due a Parole Board review;
    • how to apply to read your VPS to the Parole Board, in those case where the Parole Board holds an oral hearing;
    • how to apply for licence/discharge conditions to reduce the chances of you encountering the offender in the community, or from them contacting you;
    • about any licence/discharge conditions that relate to you and the date they will end; and
    • how to ask for a summary of the Parole Board’s decision and how to seek to challenge the decision if the Parole Board decides the offender is safe to release.
  • The Victims Strategy was published on 10 September 2018, setting out the government’s vision of a justice system that supports even more victims to speak up with certainty that they will be understood, protected and supported, whether or not they report a crime.
  • We have already delivered over 40% of the commitments made in the strategy.
  • The Victims’ Code came into effect in 2006 as part of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. It built on the support for victims within the Victims’ Charter which was introduced in 1990 and which set out for the first time the levels of service victims of crime should expect. The Code was updated in 2013 and again in 2015.We intend to consult later this year on the detail of a Victims’ Law.
Published 5 March 2020