1 - My rights as a victim of crime

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What information will I get from the authority after the crime occurred (e.g. police, public prosecutor) but before I even report the crime?

You are entitled to receive written information on what to expect from the criminal justice system such as the "information for victims of crime leaflet", or the details of a website which contains that information.

Depending on the type of crime, your personal circumstances, or its relevance to the particular stage of the investigation or criminal proceedings access to the following information must be offered to you from your first contact with the police:

  • where and how to get advice or support, including access to medical support, any specialist support (such as psychological support) and alternative accommodation;
  • what you need to do to report a criminal offence, and who you should contact in case you have any questions about the case;
  • how to seek compensation;
  • the arrangements available if the victim is not present in Northern Ireland;
  • the availability of interpretation and translation services;
  • how to make a complaint about a service provider;
  • the availability of restorative justice services;
  • how to recoup expenses incurred as a witness in a criminal trial.

You are entitled to access victim support services at any time, whether you have reported a crime or not, and after the conclusion of the investigation and prosecution.

I don’t live in the EU country where the crime took place (EU and non-EU citizens). How are my rights protected?

You are entitled to receive the services set out in the Victim Charter if the crime took place in Northern Ireland, or if the services relate to criminal proceedings that are taking place in Northern Ireland. [1]

[1] Eligibility for compensation from the Compensation Services may depend on your residency or nationality unless you are conclusively identified as a victim of human trafficking, or granted asylum, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain.

If I report a crime, what information will I receive?

You are entitled to receive the following from the police:

  • a written acknowledgement that you have reported a crime including the basic details of the offence. The written acknowledgement could be in the form of a letter, an electronic notification such as an email or text, or it could be written by hand. You may request not to receive such acknowledgement. Where the police consider there may be a risk of harm to you from sending the written acknowledgement (for example in domestic violence cases), they may agree with you not to send one;
  • a clear explanation of what to expect from the criminal justice system when you report a crime or are contacted as a victim in the course of investigations;
  • an assessment of whether you want support, and if so what help or support you may need. This will help to identify whether you are in one of the three categories of victim who may need enhanced support, and to determine whether and to what extent you may benefit from Special Measures. Victim support services may do a more detailed assessment on behalf of the police;
  • either written information on what to expect from the criminal justice system such as the "information for victims of crime" leaflet, or the details of a website which contains the same information, as soon as possible, and not later than 5 working days after reporting the crime or being contracted as a victim in the course of investigations;
  • to be informed how often you will receive updates on the status of the case following discussion with the police;
  • an explanation, without unnecessary delay, of a decision not to investigate a crime;
  • to be advised when an investigation into the case has been concluded with no person being charged and to have the reasons explained to you.

You are entitled to receive information about victim support services including their contact details from the police so that you can access their support at any time.

You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you without unnecessary delay, of a suspect being:

  • arrested;
  • interviewed under caution;
  • released without charge;
  • released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.

Am I entitled to free interpreting or translation services (when I contact the police or other authorities, or during the investigation and trial)?

If you do not understand or speak English, you are entitled to request interpretation into a language you understand:

  • when reporting a criminal offence [1]
  • when being interviewed by the police; and
  • when giving evidence as a witness.

If you do not understand or speak English, you are entitled on request to translation of the following information:

  • the written acknowledgement of the reported crime;
  • where it is essential for the purposes of the interview or court hearing to see a particular document that is disclosed to you, a copy of the relevant parts of the document;
  • the document informing you of the date, time and place of trial; and
  • the outcome of criminal proceedings where so entitled under this Code and at least brief reasons for the decisions where available.

[1] You are entitled to report the crime in a language you understand or with the necessary linguistic assistance if you don't speak English.

How does the authority ensure that I understand and that I am understood (if I am a child; if I have a disability)

Service providers under the Victim Charter must communicate with you in simple and accessible language, taking appropriate measures (e.g. EasyRead, Braille or the use of a Registered Intermediary) to assist you to understand and be understood. In considering appropriate measures, service providers must take account of any relevant personal characteristic which may affect your ability to understand and be understood.

A range of information leaflets are available using simple language, in a variety of formats.

Victim support services

Who provides victim support?

Para 76 of the Victim Charter provides an entitlement for victims to access victim support services whether or not they have reported the crime to the police. The Charter covers Victim Support NI and the NSPCC Young Witness Service. For NSPCC the entitlements only apply where a child or young person is to give evidence at court. Other NSPCC support services may be available outside the scope of the Charter, such as Childline services.

Will the police automatically refer me to victim support?

The police will explain to you that they will automatically pass your details to victim support services when you report the crime. You are entitled to ask the police not to pass on your details to victim support services.

How is my privacy protected?

Where required to share information under the Victim Charter, service providers must do so effectively and in accordance with their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and other relevant legislation.

Do I have to report a crime before I can access victim support?

No - you are entitled to access victim support services at any time, whether you have reported a crime or not, and after the conclusion of the investigation and prosecution.

Personal protection if I’m in danger

What types of protection are available?

Where a victim reports a crime to a service provider responsible for investigating offences, the service provider must ensure that the victim is individually assessed to identify any specific protection needs and to determine whether and to what extent the victim would benefit from specific protection measures or Special Measures in the course of being interviewed or Special Measures when giving evidence.

The nature of the assessment will depend on all the circumstances, including the severity of the crime and the degree of apparent harm suffered by the victim. The assessment must take into account the victim's personal characteristics, his or her views, and the nature and circumstances of the crime.

Where, as a result of the individual assessment, a service provider has identified a victim as having specific protection needs and who would benefit from specific protection measures in the course of being interviewed, the service provider responsible for investigating an offence must also ensure, subject to operational and practical constraints, that the following are available:

  • if possible, ensure that the same person conducts all the interviews with the victim, unless doing so would prejudice the proper handling of the investigation;
  • that the interview takes place, where necessary, in premises designed or adapted for the purpose;
  • that interviews are carried out by or through professionals trained for the purpose; and
  • that in cases of sexual violence, gender-based violence or domestic violence, victims are offered the opportunity to have their interview conducted by a person of the same sex. Any such request should be agreed to if possible, unless doing so would be likely to prejudice the proper handling of the investigation.

In the unlikely event of a suspect escaping from custody, the police, once aware of the escape or notified of it by the prison, will notify you wherever possible of the escape and any measures taken for your protection if it is assessed that the suspect poses a significant risk of harm to you.

Who can offer me protection?

Where a victim reports a crime to a service provider responsible for investigating offences must ensure that the victim is individually assessed to identify any specific protection. In most cases this will be the police.

Will someone assess my case to see if I am at risk of further harm by the offender?

All victims of a criminal offence are entitled to an assessment by the police to identify any needs or support required, including whether and to what extent they may benefit from Special Measures. The length and content of this assessment depends on the severity of the crime and your individual needs. The assessment will take into account your personal characteristics, the nature and circumstances of the crime, and your views. The more information you are able to provide during the assessment, the more tailored the level of support will be to your individual needs.

Will someone assess my case to see if I am at risk of further harm by the criminal justice system (during investigation and trial)?

All victims of a criminal offence are entitled to an assessment by the police to identify any needs or support required, including whether and to what extent they may benefit from Special Measures. The length and content  of this assessment depends on the severity of the crime and your individual needs. The assessment will take into account your personal characteristics, the nature and circumstances of the crime, and your views. The more information you are able to provide during the assessment, the more tailored the level of support will be to your individual needs.

What protection is available for very vulnerable victims?

You are entitled to enhance entitlements under the Victim Charter as a vulnerable victim [1] if the quality of your evidence is likely to be affected because you suffer from:

  • mental health issues;
  • learning or communication difficulties;
  • a neurological disorder; or
  • a physical disability.

[1] This is based on the criteria in Article 4 of the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 for the court to determine witness eligibility for special measures.

I am a minor – do I have special rights?

You are eligible for enhanced entitlements under the Victim Charter as a vulnerable victim [1] if you are under 18 years of age at the time of the offence. This includes eligibility for Special Measures if you give evidence at court.

[1] This is based on the criteria in Article 4 of the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 for the court to determine witness eligibility for special measures.

My family member died because of the crime – what are my rights?

Close relatives of the deceased are entitled to receive services under the Victim Charter as victims of the most serious crime.

My family member was a victim of crime – what are my rights?

The family spokesperson for victims of crime who have a disability or for victims who have been so badly injured as a result of a criminal offence that they are unable to communicate.

If you have a disability or have been so badly injured as a result of a criminal offence that you are unable to communicate, you or your close relatives are entitled to nominate a family spokesperson to act as the single point of contact to receive services under the Victim Charter.

The parent or guardian of a victim who is under 18 years of age.

If you are a victim who is under the age of 18 you, and usually your parent or guardian, are entitled to receive services under the Victim Charter. [1]

[1] Unless your parent or guardian is under investigation or has been charged by the police in connection with the crime or if the reasonable opinion of the service provider involved it is not in your best interests for your parent or guardian to receive such services.

Can I access mediation services? What are the conditions? Will I be safe during mediation?

The aim of restorative justice is to try to help repair the damage (including mental and emotional damage) caused by the crime. Any restorative justice practices are completely voluntary - you do not have to take part - and are assisted by a trained facilitator. Restorative justice can involve direct and indirect contact between you and the offender. It might be written, verbal or involve an actual meeting. All parties have a chance to say what happened and to explain the impact of the offence. Before this, preparation will be carried out with you, by the relevant service provider, to make sure that you feel supported.

Appropriate measures will be put in place to make sure that anything you agree to take part in is safe; a trained facilitator will always be present during any meeting between you and the offender. If the offender has admitted guilt and is willing to participate in a meeting or communicate with you, you may be able to explain to the offender how the incident has affected you. You may then decide to seek an apology, or agree an activity that the offender has to undertake as part of making good the harm that has been done.

Where can I find the law stating my rights?

The Victim Charter was laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Department of Justice under Section 31(2) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2015.

The Victim Charter sets out the services that are to be provided in Northern Ireland to victims of crime by the main criminal justice organisations and other organisations with relevant functions. These organisations are referred to as 'service providers'.

The entitlements in the Victim Charter apply to all victim, regardless of their residence status.


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Last update: 14/03/2019