Over the coming weeks, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) is releasing detailed information relating to each of the 12 rights within the Victims’ Code. Each release will cover one or more of the rights and will focus on the following:
• Local processes in Bedfordshire, how victims can access support, key information and services.
• The OPCC’s interpretation and pledge of how we intend to support the implementation of each right.
• Which rights are appropriate for the OPCC to monitor Bedfordshire Police compliance.
• Ongoing projects or work relating to the Victims’ Code being undertaken by the OPCC or collaboratively with criminal justice partners.
Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said “It is crucial that each individual is supported appropriately throughout the criminal justice system and beyond. The revised Victims’ Code must be accessible to all victims of crime, to ensure that they are aware of their entitlements.”
Signpost are the Victim Support Service linked with the OPCC. As the OPCC are a completely separate organisation from Bedfordshire Police, Signpost makes sure that confidentiality is of the utmost and will make sure that your details will not be passed on to anyone without your consent.
A high-level overview of the 12 rights that VCOP sets out for victims and an early indication of how the OPCC and Signpost can support are as follows:
1. To be able to understand and to be understood
The ‘Recite Me’ tool is used on both the OPCC and Signpost websites allowing the user to customise the website to suit their needs in support of language barriers and disabilities.
Signpost users can receive emotional and practical support along with help to understand the police investigation and court processes.
2. To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay
In the first instance, we would expect Bedfordshire Police to ensure details of the crime are recorded without unjustified delay. If unable to get through to Officer in the case and the victim is a Signpost service user, Signpost can assist by making efforts to connect the victim with the right individual within the force.
Where appropriate, the OPCC will monitor and review Bedfordshire Police compliance with several elements of the Victims’ Code.
3. To be provided with information when reporting the crime
Upon reporting a crime to the police victims are entitled to receive certain information. The OPCC are committed to providing detail on each right to help to set expectations of what information and standards of service can be expected locally.
Signpost service users can receive support with understanding the police investigation processes and what should be expected.
4. To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs
Signpost is a free and confidential service available to anyone. It offers a route to emotional and practical support that is tailored to meet the specific needs of each service user. Signposts trained specialists are dedicated to assisting with the victim journey to coping and recovering from the impact of crime and can refer users to other agencies in Bedfordshire for specialist victim support services.
5. To be provided with information about compensation
Victims’ of crime are entitled to claim compensation and should be provided with the relevant information about eligibility and making the claim. A claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) can be made online or over the telephone. Signpost can provide emotional support and advice through this process.
6. To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution
This is key to victim satisfaction of services in the criminal justice system. Being updated with information about the police investigation and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecution can assist the ability to cope with the impact of the crime. The OPCC see this as a fundamental element to monitor compliance. Signpost cannot provide updates relating to the case but can provide emotional wellbeing help and support.
7. To make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS)
Victims of crime must be offered the opportunity to make a VPS in addition to their witness statement, to explain how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. Signpost can provide emotional support and advice through this process and help the individual to cope and recover from the impact they have suffered.
The OPCC also intend to review VPS recording mechanisms within Bedfordshire Police. It is important that victims are being offered the option to make a VPS and we can monitor compliance with this right.
8. To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness
Having to attend court can be a worrying experience for any victim. However, it is the Witness Care Unit’s responsibility to contact each victim before the trial, to provide information about the trial, trial process and the victims’ role as a witness. They can also provide practical guidance. Signpost can provide additional emotional support and advice through this process.
9. To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals
The police will provide information about the outcome of the investigation and the witness care unit will provide information about a court case outcome. If this is not received Signpost can assist with communication to the right department or individual for a victim to receive the information. If outcome information has not been received and you wish to make a complaint, please refer to right 12 in the Victims Code of Practice.
10. To be paid expenses and have property returned
Victims have the right to claim certain expenses from the Crown Prosecution Service such as travel, child care, loss of earnings, refreshments and meals. The Witness Care Unit will be able to help with any questions about claiming expenses.
If the police took any property as evidence, victims have the right to get it back as soon as it is no longer required. If this is not received Signpost can assist with communication to the right department or individual within Bedfordshire Police.
11. To be given information about the offender following a conviction
Victims are entitled to receive the Victims Contact Scheme, which enables them to receive information at key stages of the offender’s sentence.
Signpost also manage the restorative justice process for service users following a conviction or investigation outcome. The process allows a victim and offender to communicate in a controlled environment. This can enable those affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.
12. To make a complaint about your rights not being met
If victims are unhappy with the service received and rights 1-12 have not been fulfilled, the individual is entitled to make a complaint through the service providers complaint process.
Ahead of a complaint if victims are unhappy about the outcome decision made by the police or Court not to continue with proceedings then they can request a review of the outcome through the Victims Right to Review Scheme (VRR) with the Police or CPS.
Signpost cannot assist with completing complaints documentation, however, they can advise how to make a police complaint and/or refer victims to other criminal justice organisations for complaints processes where appropriate.
If you have been a victim of crime and you would like support, please contact Signpost. Signpost can be reached on the confidential freephone number 0800 0282 887. Support services across a wide range of crimes can also be accessed via the Signpost website, www.signpostforbedfordshire.com if individuals prefer to self-refer.