What is the Victims’ Code?

The Victims’ Code is a useful document setting out what victims of crime may expect of those who work within the criminal justice sector (“service provider”). It is likewise a helpful guide for service providers as to what should be provided to victims.  

What are the 12 rights in the Victims’ Code?

  1. To be able to understand and to be understood
  2. To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay 
  3. To be provided with information when reporting the crime 
  4. To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs 
  5. To be provided with information about compensation 
  6. To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution 
  7. To make a Victim Personal Statement 
  8. To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness 
  9. To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals 
  10. To be paid expenses and have property returned 
  11. To be given information about the offender following a conviction 
  12. To make a complaint about your Rights not being met 

Which rights apply to a victim will depend on whether the crime is reported to the police, if the case goes to court, and whether the defendant is convicted, as well as the victims personal needs and circumstances. Rights 1, 4, and 12 apply to all victims. The remaining rights only apply where a crime has been reported to the police. The relevant service provider will tell the victim which Rights apply to them.

A full copy of the Victims’ Code can be found here:- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime/code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime-in-england-and-wales-victims-code#right-4-to-be-referred-to-services-that-support-victims-and-have-services-and-support-tailored-to-your-needs

As a civil solicitor specialising in supporting those who after an incident have suffered serious injury, or have been bereaved, to access rehabilitation, receive interim payments and compensation to help them rebuild their lives, I find rights 4 and 5 of particular interest. In both instances, it creates a positive duty on the service provider to ensure that a victim is informed. In this context I will touch upon below Rights 4 and 5.

Right 4

This sets out that when a victim reports a crime to the police they have the right to be offered support with the intention to help the victim to cope and, as far as possible, recover after a crime. 

This support can take a range of forms including, but not limited to, signposting to victim support, the national homicide service, and road safety charities.  

Ideally, the victim will be signposted to a service that is relevant to the crime suffered, for instance if they have been assaulted then referral may be made to victim support whereas if the victim has suffered serious injury or bereavement as a result of a road crash then this may lead to signposting to a road safety charity such as RoadPeace or Brake.

Right 5 

The Code identifies several different routes for compensation that might be available to a victim such as an award made by the criminal court, an award made by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and also compensation through a civil claim. 

This guidance is important because it develops an area where for so long the deteriorating financial position of the victim as a result of the crime had been overlooked. It may be the case that a victim, following serious injury or bereavement, is in need of funds to pay for medical treatment, replace earnings to pay daily living costs such as a mortgage, or in the case of a fatal road crash to meet the cost of a funeral.  If a victim does not seek early legal advice then their personal situation can quickly worsen.  

Right 5.11 states:- 

It may be possible to seek compensation from the suspect or offender outside of the criminal justice process. If you want to consider applying for civil compensation, you should seek legal advice and assistance from a solicitor.

The obligation is on the service provider to inform the victim of their right to seek legal advice and assistance from a solicitor. This is a positive step but when approaching a solicitor a victim should be mindful to identify a solicitor who is suitably skilled and experienced for their legal need. For instance the solicitor who handled your property purchase is unlikely to be experienced in a serious injury claim.

If the victim has suffered either a serious injury or bereavement after a road crash then a solicitor should be found who practices in those fields and this will be an important question at the outset. Having established the discipline of the solicitor the victim may want to further explore if they are suitable by asking about their experience of handling such matters and if they are accredited by any of the leading organisations such as :- 

  • The independent legal directories, Legal 500 and also Chambers & Partners 
  • Headway, the Brain Injury Association 
  • CBIT, the Child Brain Injury Trust
  • SIA, the Spinal Injuries Association
  • Aspire Charity 
  • RoadPeace or Brake, the national road safety charities 

It will also be important to establish how legal costs will be funded. There will be several different ways to fund legal costs of which the best for the victim should be selected which may enable recovery from the opponent of the legal costs with no shortfall deducted from the compensation recovered. 

The Victims’ Code is a positive step forward in caring for victims after a crime to ensure they know what to expect but the onus will remain upon the service provider to prioritise the communication of the code to the victim. 

How Moore Barlow can help

Matthew Claxson is a partner and a solicitor in the Personal injury team. Moore Barlow is top ranked by both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners and also accredited by Headway, CBIT, Aspire, SIA and RoadPeace.  

Our Personal injury team can be contacted on freephone 0800 157 7611 or by email claim@moorebarlow.com