Continuing the series of items that the OPCC has been releasing, which gives information relating to each of the rights within the Victims’ Code. Each release has covered one or more of the rights.
Right # 11 To be given information about the offender following a conviction
Summary of right 11
The Victim Contact Scheme
If you are the victim or a bereaved family relative and the offender was convicted of a specified violent or sexual offence and sentenced to 12 months or more in prison (or detained in a hospital for treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983 with or without a restriction order), you have the right to be automatically referred within ten working days of sentencing to the National Probation Service Victim Contact Scheme and be assigned a Victim Liaison Officer. The Victim Liaison Officer will contact you within 20 working days of the referral.
Where you choose to receive the Victims Contact Scheme, you are entitled to receive information at key stages of the offender’s sentence. You may opt-out and opt back in to the Victims Contact Scheme at any time whilst the offender is serving their sentence/ hospital order.
The Victim Liaison Officer will tell you:
- What the sentence of the court means in terms of the offender’s detention in prison or hospital, and if there are any changes to their sentence
- When an offender in prison becomes eligible to be considered for a transfer to open conditions
- If a prisoner moves to open conditions
- When an offender is being considered for release or for conditional discharge
- When the offender is released, or discharged from hospital, and if they are recalled to prison or hospital
- How to make a Victim Personal Statement where it falls to the Parole Board to decide whether to direct the release of the offender from prison
- How to apply to read your Victim Personal Statement to the Parole Board, or have it read out on your behalf, or make a pre-recording in those cases 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 to prohibit them from contacting you
- About any licence/discharge conditions that relate to you and the date they will end or where a request to change or remove them has been made
- How to ask for a summary of the Parole Board’s decision and how to seek to make representations where the Parole Board decides the offender is safe to release
- If the offender escapes or absconds from custody
- How to ask for information should the offender be convicted of a most serious offence and
- How to make a reconsideration request (where eligible)
In addition to the statutory offences where the Victims Contact Scheme is offered, the National Probation Service will also offer victims access to the scheme where the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more in prison (or detained in a hospital for treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983 with or without a restriction order) for:
- Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving (Road Traffic Act 1988)
- Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving (Road Traffic Act 1988) or
- Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship (Serious Crime Act 2015).
Victims of offenders who are under 18 years old
If the offender in your case is under the age of 18 and you are not eligible for the Victims Contact Scheme, the Youth Offending Team may contact you directly. This is in cases where a young offender is sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, 12 months or more for a non-sexual or non-violent offence or a community-based order. A community-based order puts conditions on an offender serving a sentence in the community rather than prison.
The Youth Offending Team may seek your views prior to sentencing and explore whether you want to get involved in any Restorative Justice initiatives where appropriate and available.
You have the right to receive the following information from the Youth Offending Team:
- information about the progress of the offender’s case upon request; and
- information on appropriate services that support victims if you ask for additional support.
The Parole Board
The Parole Board must:
- Consider all representations that victims have made about licence conditions; where a victim has requested a licence condition which has not been included, or has been amended, and provide an explanation for this non-inclusion or amendment
- Read a Victim Personal Statement if one is submitted
- Consider any application by the victim to be permitted to attend the hearing and read their Victim Personal Statement or have it read by someone else on their behalf
- Unless there is a good reason for not doing so, agree to the statement being read at the hearing by the victim or someone else on their behalf and
- Provide a summary of the parole decision upon application, unless there is a good reason for not doing so.
Asking for a parole decision to be reviewed (Reconsideration Mechanism)
The Parole Board considers certain offenders for parole (release on licence) or re-release following recall and does so based on their risk of harm to the public.
If the Parole Board decides it is safe to release an offender the decision is provisional for 21 calendar days in the majority of cases (except standard determinate recalls). The Secretary of State may ask the Parole Board to reconsider the decision during this period, if he has an arguable case that:
- The correct process was not followed in the review of the offender for parole – for example, important evidence was not considered; or
- The decision was irrational – the decision cannot be justified based on the evidence of risk that was considered.
As a victim, you may submit a request to the Secretary of State asking that an application for reconsideration is made, if you believe that the decision meets either of these tests. Your request must be submitted within the 21-day provisional window. The Secretary of State will only do so where there is evidence the criteria is met. You will receive a letter informing you of whether the Secretary of State makes an application for reconsideration or not.
Sexual Offender Notification Requirements Review Process
Registered sex offenders are subject to ‘notification requirements’. This means they must tell the police about some of their personal details. The notification requirements are an automatic consequence of a conviction or caution, for a Schedule 3 offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, but the length of time an offender will be subject to the requirements will vary dependent upon the sentence they are given. A breach of the notification requirements is a criminal offence and is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Offenders who are subject to notification requirements for life can apply to have this reviewed after a set period of time following their first notification, which usually takes place at release from prison. The set period of time is 15 years for adults and 8 years for juveniles. If the offender makes such an application, the police will then carry out a review, including a risk assessment to decide whether the offender’s notification requirements may be stopped. Sex offenders who are assessed as still being a risk will remain subject to notification requirements and will do so for life if necessary.
If you are a victim of an offender who makes such an application, you have the right to be contacted by the police to provide your views on the application as part their review. Your Victim Liaison Officer will provide you with further information about this process
Foreign National Offenders
If you have been a victim of a crime committed by a foreign national and the offender:
- has received a prison sentence of 12 months or more, or a hospital order, for an offence against you
- was recommended by a court for deportation for an offence against you; or
- was sentenced to a period in prison for a violent or sexual offence
Then you have the right to receive information about the offender’s deportation. You can choose not to receive this information. The National Probation Service (Victim Liaison Officer and Offender Managers) must take all reasonable steps to work with the immigration authorities to ensure, as far as possible, that information about the prisoner’s immigration status and any deportation information is passed on to victims.
If you have been the victim of a crime, your Victim Liaison Officer assigned by the Victims Contact Scheme will be able to obtain updates from the Home Office on your behalf.
If you are not eligible for the Victims Contact Scheme or have opted out of the scheme, but you meet the criteria, you have the right to ask for updates regarding the immigration case of the Foreign National Offender directly from the Home Office’s Victim Support Team.
The Home Office Victim Support Team can tell you:
- Whether the Home Office intends to take deportation action against the offender
- The final outcome of any appeal against deportation
- When the offender is going to be released from immigration detention
- When the offender has been deported or
- If the offender is not being deported and if possible, the reasons why
Serious Further Offence Reviews
In the event that an offender commits a Serious Further Offence while they are under statutory supervision by the provider of probation services, or shortly after this supervision has ended, the provider of probation services will carry out a Serious Further Offence Review, to investigate how the case was managed and whether or not there are any improvements that need to be made to manage future cases.
In the most serious cases, providers of probation services will offer to share the findings of a Serious Further Offence Review with the victim or their families following conviction of the offender. If this occurs you have the right to be contacted by your Victim Liaison Officer, to be asked whether you would like to meet with a senior manager from the provider of probation services to talk about the findings of the Serious Further Offence Review, and if you would like a copy of the report.
Local processes in Bedfordshire, key information and support
The Parole Board and Victim Personal Statements
When can I make a Victim Personal Statement to the Parole Board?
You can make a new Victim Personal Statement any time leading up to the parole review, but it must be submitted in good time in order for the Parole Board to read it. If there is to be a parole oral hearing the Victim Personal Statement should be submitted at least eight weeks in advance. A parole hearing is unlikely to be delayed to allow for a late Victim Personal Statement to be submitted.
Can I change my mind or update my Victim Personal Statement?
You can update your Victim Personal Statement or write a new one, but you will need to withdraw a previous version first. You can write a new statement for each parole review that may take place.
Will the offender be able to see my Victim Personal Statement?
The overriding principle is that the offender will see all information related to the parole review, unless in very exceptional circumstances the Parole Board agrees not to disclose it to the offender. This practice is consistent with the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system. However, if you do not wish the offender to read your statement you may ask your Victim Liaison Officer to apply for the statement to be withheld, under a non-disclosure application. There are rules about this which will need to be followed, including strict timeframes for making a request (eight weeks ahead of an oral hearing) and specific reasons for when information can be withheld, which are set out in the Parole Board Rules 2019. The final decision lies with the Parole Board. If the Board agrees not to disclose your Victim Personal Statement, the prisoner’s solicitor may still have sight of it, although he/she may be required not to disclose it to the prisoner.
If you request non-disclosure and the Parole Board turns it down, you may withdraw your Victim Personal Statement.
Further questions or help recording your Victim Personal Statement
If you have questions about making a Victim Personal Statement, how it will be used or what to include, you can speak to your Victim Liaison Officer. They can also help you to record your personal statement.
The OPCC’s / Signposts pledge of how we intend to support the implementation of this right
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioners Victim Care Service, Signpost, are her to provide victims of Bedfordshire practical and emotional support. Signpost are able to support a victim emotionally through completing a Victim Personal Statement but are unable to advise the victim on what to write. Signpost are unable to provide information about the offender at any time.
Ongoing projects or work relating to the Victims’ Code being undertaken by the OPCC or collaboratively with criminal justice partners
As part of the Victims’ Needs Analysis recently carried out by the OPCC, 28 recommendations were made with a view to improving the victims’ journey. They relate to further work on cultural reviews and data analysis, process changes, training and awareness programmes, victim support and approach to commissioned services across partnerships new processes. Some of the recommendations are relatable to the rights within the Victims’ Code and they will be detailed in these press releases each week.
Getting support after being affected by crime
If you would like to discuss how you could receive support with coping and recovering from the impact of crime, Signpost can help you. Signpost is free, confidential, available to everyone and is a way for you to find the help that meets your specific needs.
Freephone: 0800 0282 887
(calls are free from landlines and mobiles)
https://www.signpostforbedfordshire.com (self-referral form found in the contact page)