The OPCC has been releasing information relating to each of the 12 rights within the Victims’ Code for eight weeks now. Each release has covered one or more of the rights.
Right #9 – To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals
Summary of right 9
At the end of the case, you have the right to be told the outcome, including where available, a brief summary of reasons for the decision, by the Witness Care Unit, within one working day of them receiving the information from the court, which will be within five working days of the outcome of the case.
If the defendant is convicted (found guilty), you have the right to be told the sentence they received, including a short explanation about the meaning and effect of the sentence, by the Witness Care Unit, within one working day of them receiving the information from the court, which will be within five working days of the outcome of the case. If you have any questions about the sentence which the Witness Care Unit are unable to answer, you have the right to be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will answer any questions which the Witness Care Unit is not able to answer.
If you are a bereaved close relative, you have the right to be offered a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service:
- Following conviction, but before the sentencing hearing of the defendant, to confirm that a Victim Personal Statement has been made or to confirm that it is up to date (this meeting will usually take place at court);
- Following the sentencing hearing to explain the sentence given (this meeting will usually take place at court);
- In cases where the defendant is found not guilty or is convicted of a less serious charge the offer of a meeting will be made a few weeks after the case has concluded, unless the Crown Prosecution Service decide that this is inappropriate. On the rare occasions where they decide that a meeting is not appropriate, this decision will be explained to you. The actual timing of the meeting will be informed by the wishes of the family and you will be contacted to discuss when it should take place; and
- In a murder case where all defendants are found not guilty of all charges, the police and Crown Prosecution Service will follow the process set out in the National Standards of Support for bereaved families. The National Standards of Support are available on the Crown Prosecution Service website at: cps.gov.uk and a copy is provided by the police to bereaved families as part of the police bereavement pack
If you think the sentence given to the offender is far too low
For some (but not all) cases sentenced in the Crown Court you can ask the Attorney General to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal to reconsider it. This can only be done if the Attorney General thinks that the sentence was not just lenient but ‘unduly lenient’, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences reasonably available in the circumstances of the case.
If the Attorney General considers that the sentence meets the standard of being ‘unduly lenient’, the case is referred to the Court of Appeal. The Attorney General must consider the matter as soon as possible after sentence and no later than the 28th calendar day after the sentence was imposed (in business hours and with sufficient time for consideration). If the Court of Appeal agrees, it may increase the sentence.
The Witness Care Unit will tell you about the scheme, when you are told the sentence in the case.
If the offender appeals
Sometimes the offender will ask the court to look at the case or the sentence again. This is called an appeal. What will happen next will depend on whether the offender is allowed to appeal and if so, the outcome of that appeal.
If an application is made to the Crown Court to appeal against a conviction or sentence in the Magistrates’ Court
If the offender appeals to the Crown Court, you have the Right to be told by the Witness Care Unit within one working day of them receiving the information from the court, which will be within five working days of the outcome of the hearing:
- that a notice of appeal has been made;
- the date, time and location of any hearing; and
- the outcome of the appeal, including any changes to the original sentence.
If you wish to attend the appeal, you have the right for court staff to arrange for you to:
- wherever possible wait and be seated in court in an area separate from the offender and their family and friends;
- be provided with a contact point at the Crown Court; and
- receive information about services that support victims where appropriate and available.
If an application is made to appeal against a conviction or sentence to the Court of Appeal, or an application or appeal is made to the UK Supreme Court in a criminal case on a point of law
If the offender appeals to the Court of Appeal or UK Supreme Court, you have the Right to be told by the Witness Care Unit within five working days (one working day under Enhanced Right) of them receiving the information from the court, which will be within five working days of the outcome of the relevant hearing:
- if the offender has been given permission to appeal against the conviction, sentence or point of law;
- the date, time and location of any hearing, and any changes to this information (within 1 working day for all victims);
- if the offender is to be released on bail pre-appeal or if the bail conditions have been changed (within 1 working day for all victims);
- the name of a contact for the Criminal Appeal Office or UK Supreme Court staff;
- the outcome of the appeal, including any changes to the original sentence, and
- how to request a copy from the Criminal Appeal Office or UK Supreme Court staff of the court’s judgment in the case once it has been published.
If you wish to attend the appeal, you have the right for court staff or UK Supreme Court staff to arrange for:
- wherever possible, to wait and be seated in court in an area separate from the offender and their family and friends; and
- special arrangements to be made for you if the offender is present and you do not wish to sit in the courtroom (it is rare for the offender to attend hearings in the Supreme Court).
Following a decision to give the offender permission to appeal, if you are a bereaved close relative, you have the right to be offered a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service to explain the nature of the appeal and the court processes.
In determining an appeal against a sentence, the court will always take into account any Victim Personal Statement that was considered by the sentencing court.
It is not normally necessary for a further personal statement to be provided to the Court of Appeal. However, if there is information that the court should know about the continuing impact the crime has had on you, a new or further Victim Personal Statement may be sent to the Court through the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.
Criminal Cases Review Commission
The Criminal Cases Review Commission investigates alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. An offender can apply to the Commission to review their convictions and/or sentence if there is some new information or new argument which might mean the conviction is unsafe or the sentence too long.
The Commission, when reviewing a case, will assess the potential impact on you and decide if you should be notified.
The Commission will not usually try to contact you just because they have received an application. This is because most reviews will not lead to a referral to the Court of Appeal, and therefore there is no need to warn you that the offender has applied. However, the Commission will tell you if they think there is a reasonable chance that you may find out that they are looking at a case though the media or through another source. The Commission will usually work with the police to notify you of an application and will contact you again when a decision has been made on whether they refer the case.
If the Commission decides that it is not appropriate to contact you during the review, but subsequently decides to refer the conviction or sentence to the courts, the Commission will try their best to contact you before the case is referred for an appeal.
Local processes in Bedfordshire, key information and support
Bedfordshire Police have a joint Witness Care Service alongside Hertfordshire Police, this is accessible to witnesses and victims should the case go to court.
The Witness Care Unit will support you every step of the way during court proceedings.
The Witness Care Unit will tell you if you will be required to give evidence, dates of court hearings and the outcomes from the court and any subsequent appeals.
The OPCC’s / Bedfordshire Victim Care Services (BVCS) pledge of how we intend to support the implementation of this right
The office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Victim Care Service, BVCS, can provide emotional and practical support to victims of crime. Although we do not provide information surrounding court cases and the outcomes of court cases we are here to talk to victims and witnesses should they need us.
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.
There is 1 recommendation relatable to right 9:
Engaging with victims / witnesses awaiting Court – feedback from victims and witnesses awaiting court must be collated to understand the impact of prolonged waits for hearings and trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Echo programme could be utilised to collect this data. However, a proactive and preventative approach should also be taken in attempt to prevent the issue of victims and witnesses disengaging due to long waiting times. Further research is needed to understand whether there is a demand for additional resource to engage with those awaiting court and whether this could be met through BVCS. This should be reviewed by the Local Criminal Justice board (LCJB) and the Business Change and Continuous Improvement Board (BCCIB).
Engagement is important as set out in Right 8. To try to better understand what victims and witnesses are going through the Echo programs is being researched by Bedfordshire Police for use. This application will enable victims and witnesses to provide feedback to Bedfordshire Police therefore enabling them to adapt to what victims and witnesses’ needs are. BVCS, The OPCC’s Victim Care Service will look to provide practical and emotional support to those that need it.
Being able to understand the needs for victims and witnesses from source will be of huge benefit, not just to the victims and the witnesses but to Bedfordshire Police and the OPCC also.
Being able to understand the needs directly from source will be a valuable asset to Bedfordshire Police to forge better understandings and relationships with victims and witnesses going forward.
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, BVCS can help you. BVCS is free, confidential, available to everyone and is a way for you to find the help that meets your specific needs.
Contact: Bedfordshire Victim Care Services
Freephone: 0800 0282 887
(calls are free from landlines and mobiles)
https://www.bedfordshirevcs.com/ (self-referral form found in the contact page)
Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Closed bank holidays. Out of hours you can leave a voicemail and we will call back.