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Victims' rights - by country

England and Wales

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England and Wales

How and where can I report a crime?

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How and where can I report a crime?

If you have suffered from a crime in England and Wales you can report it to the police.

You can report it by calling or going in person to the nearest police station. For non-urgent cases you can dial the non-emergency number 101 to be connected to the local police force. In urgent cases you can dial the emergency number 999 or 112.

If you are an asylum seeker or a refugee, you can also contact one of the One Stop Services, which will help you to find the nearest police station and can arrange an interpreter free of charge if you need one.

If you do not feel comfortable to report the crime yourself you can ask another person to report it for you or file an anonymous report to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or filling in their online form. Remember though that if you are the victim of the crime the police will need to speak with you at some point to progress the investigation effectively.
If you do not speak English you can report the crime in your own language or any other language you understand. Translation services will be provided free of charge, if necessary.
When you report a crime to the police, you will be asked for all relevant details about the crime, the person you think committed the crime (if known), and relevant personal details (e.g. your name, address, and other contact details).
The police officer to whom you report the crime will record it on a special form. For most crimes there is no deadline for reporting but it is preferable to report crimes as soon as possible.
More detailed information about how to report a crime to the police is also available online.

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

You will receive a written acknowledgement that you have reported a crime including the basic details of the offence and the crime reference number. You can use this information to follow the progress of your case. You are entitled to be contacted by the person dealing with your case at regular intervals to update you on the investigation (or a decision not to proceed with, or end an investigation; or not to prosecute the offender) and the details of any trial. If you require further information you can call using the non emergency 101 number. You can also go to the police station but, if doing so without an appointment, the person dealing with your case may not be available.

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

If the police deal with the crime you will be able to make a Victim Personal Statement, in which you can detail the financial, emotional, physical and psychological impact of the crime on you (and, where applicable, your family). You can do this when reporting the crime or at any time thereafter. Depending on your needs you will be provided free of charge with an interpreter, medical examination, and other services. However, this does not include legal advice and/or representation as in the UK the victim is not a party to the proceedings, which are between the state and the defendant. As a victim of crime, if you do participate in court proceedings then this will be as a witness.

During the investigation you are entitled to regular up-dates on progress, and to be told of any arrests. However, you will not be allowed to see any documents or data concerning the proceedings. Any further involvement in the investigation is at the request of the police (e.g. responding to additional questions or participation in an identity parade). You are not obliged to take any further part if you do not wish to do so (though you may be obliged to participate in any court proceedings that might follow).

Because in the UK victims are not party to proceedings, you are not specifically entitled to representation. However, if you choose to instruct a lawyer (which will be at your own expense) to put information or arguments before the authorities they will generally take such representations into account.

You will be informed if and when formal charges have been brought against a suspect and your views will be taken into account by the prosecution service. The prosecution service is not obliged to act in accordance with what you say, although you can make them aware of your views through making a Victim Personal Statement.

Expenses incurred at this stage are not generally reimbursed.

What are my rights as a witness?

During the investigation the police may ask you to give a witness statement. Usually you will be invited to say what happened and the police officer will write an account of what you have said. Then you will be asked to verify if your statement was recorded correctly and sign it. The police officer will be able to make corrections if you feel they are necessary and you will be asked to endorse them.

If you are providing a statement, the police will carry out an assessment of your needs as a witness. This will cover when and how you can be contacted and what language and communication needs you may have. The police will also assess whether a communication specialist (called a Registered Intermediary) might help you to give your statement or whether your witness statement will be video recorded.

Your witness statement may not be used as evidence in court in certain circumstances, such as if your evidence is not being challenged by the defence, but it is likely to be used and you may also be requested to give evidence at the trial in person.

For further information on your rights as a witness, please consult the Witness Charter (coming soon)

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are a child under 18 years of age you are able to receive enhanced support and assistance in giving evidence in court if you are required to do so.

Your witness statement will be video recorded unless you ask to make a written statement. However, you may still be required to attend court to be questioned about your evidence.

What information can I obtain from the police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

When you report a crime to the police you will be told whether or not the police will investigate the case and you will be asked what views you have about prosecution.

You will be asked if you wish to receive further information (e.g. about prosecution decisions and court proceedings). The police will keep you regularly updated on progress during the investigation for example about the suspect's arrest. You will be informed on the conclusion of the investigation (e.g. whether the defendant has been charged or cautioned).

For further guidance about matters such as emotional and practical support and compensation you are entitled to be referred to local victim support services based in the area where you live (England and Wales only).

Where applicable you will also be referred to other specialist services (e.g. in relation to domestic violence or sexual assault).

Can I receive legal aid?

You do not have a right to legal aid unless you are seeking private prosecution where in some cases legal aid is available. This is because victims are not party to proceedings in the UK and therefore do not normally require representation. The only exception is where the nature of the crime requires specialist assistance or assessment (e.g. medical), which will then be provided free of charge.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

If you feel you or your family are at risk from criminal activity you should report this to the police immediately so that appropriate action can be taken. The police will provide such protection, as they assess is necessary and reasonable, bearing in mind the level, probability and immediacy of the risk.

Protection can take different forms e.g. regular patrols near the victim’s home, or an alarm that will ring in the local police station. Only in the most serious cases are more drastic protection measures taken (such as anonymity during trials or witness protection programmes).

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

If the allegation is a police matter, you will be referred to victim support services which will give further support and guidance as appropriate.

Where applicable you will also be referred to other specialist services (e.g. in relation to domestic violence or sexual assault), if you want to be.

Services are usually free of charge.

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

The police and the prosecution service (or Youth Offending Team in the case of an under 18 offender) will consider whether any form of diversion from prosecution is appropriate, and this may include mediation. A formal warning from the police or conditional warning (also known as a “caution”) from the prosecution service often requires offenders to engage in some form of conciliation with victims, and this could also include mediation.

You would normally be invited to participate in this procedure and have your views taken into account when a decision is made. Mediation can only be pursued with your consent and is carried out by police or probation staff.

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Once the police have completed the investigation, they will decide whether the case should be referred to the prosecution service to determine if it should proceed to a trial. The prosecution service will examine whether there is enough evidence against the defendant and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute him/her. If the prosecution service decides that a prosecution should go ahead the suspect will be charged and the case will go to court. In more minor cases the police can make this decision themselves without referring it to the prosecution service. The police will always inform you whether your case will go to court, regardless of whether they or the prosecution service make the decision.

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

You cannot appeal to the police or the prosecution service against a decision not to prosecute. However, in certain circumstances you are entitled to ask the police to review a decision made by them not to prosecute a suspect or not to refer the case to the prosecution service to make a decision; and to ask the prosecution service to review their decision if they decide not to prosecute.

You can also ask the High Court to review the decision (which is known as "judicial review"). The High Court will only make a ruling against the decision-maker if it decides that the decision was irrational or otherwise unlawful (as distinct from undesirable). If you succeed it is likely that the court would order the decision-making organisation to review its decision in the light of the court's findings. If you are considering this course of action you will need legal representation. Legal aid is available in some circumstances, but only if certain criteria are satisfied (particularly concerning financial circumstances).

It is possible that you may be able to seek a private prosecution, although this is not common in the UK. It is done by asking the local magistrates court to issue a warrant for the arrest of the suspected offender or a “summons” requiring him/her to appear in court on a specified day. Legal aid is unlikely to be available in such cases. In addition, if a prosecution has begun and then been terminated it will not usually be possible to start proceedings again. The magistrates will require sufficient evidence of the guilt of the suspected offender that he/she would be convicted in the absence of any rebuttal from him/her.

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

If you are a foreigner you have all the rights listed above.

In addition, if you do not understand or speak English you are entitled to request an interpreter and are entitled on request to translation of certain information.

More information:

  • Code of Practice for Victims of Crime – in English
  • The Witness Charter – in English
  • Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 – in English
  • Victim Personal Statement: A guide for police officers, investigators and criminal justice practitioners – in English
  • Final Warning Scheme – in English
  • Code of Practice on Conditional Cautions – in English
  • Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008 – in English
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation - Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Last update: 21/09/2017

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